Reviewing Healthy Ageing at Work Policies, Products and Opportunities in Western Balkan Countries

Author: Dr Petre Lameski STSM Period: 2021-09-28 – 2021-10-11

ECI: Yes

Hosting institution: Singidunum University

ITC: Yes

PURPOSE OF THE STMS

The purpose of the STSM was to survey the countries of the Western Balkans who are members or aspire for EU membership such as Serbia and North Macedonia in order to inspect the healthy ageing at work policies and the peoples perception of the healthy ageing paradigm in general. Also, the goal of the STSM was to map competencies of the countries and survey the existing products, companies, legal, government and non-government entities that are working towards healthy ageing at work if any.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK CARRIED OUT DURING THE STSMS

During the STSM in Serbia, the following activities were performed:

  1. During the first couple of days, a list of relevant stakeholders was defined. Serbia has a Gereontological society that is pretty active in the healthy ageing area and is organizing several events in this direction, but more specifically, healthy ageing at work is not directly treated. There are other organizations that help the ageing population, but traditionally, the care for the ageing population is left to the family and the younger family members.
  2. We performed a thorough search of the policies for healthy ageing in Serbia and North Macedonia, online, together with gathering publications and documents that could be of help to establish the baseline knowledge of the people and the societies in general about the healthy ageing paradigm and more specifically the healthy ageing at work.
  3. We defined several interview quesitons in an informal manner that would help us assess the situation in Belgrade, Serbia and in the vicinity. The interviews were performed in informal manner by asking the questions to the people in direct communication. Due to the COVID19 situation in Serbia at the time, we limited the number of questions to what you can ask in a short conversation with the older adults without exposing them to risks. We interviewed random people on the streets in Belgrade and we also asked people from other parts in Serbia, such as Jagodina, Golubac, Veliko Gradiste and other. The questions were: Are you active? Are you working and why? Do you have healthy lifestyle? Are you aware of healthy ageing at work policies? What is your opiniont about the country care for the ageing population and who takes care of you?
  4. After that, in the final days of the STSM, we started writing the joint publication and summarized the initial findings and results. We were discussing the possibility of obtaining answers from other parts of the Balkan peninsula too.

DESCRIPTION OF THE MAIN RESULTS OBTAINED

The healthy ageing at work is a topic that is somewhat foreign in both countries. Both countries have established strategies and policies towards achieving a healthy environment for the oldar adults. Most of the strategies, however are reactive in terms that the counries provide health coverage for the older adults and access to health care. Also there are other benefits for the older adults that should help their wellbeing. However healthy ageing at work is a foreign topic since most of the older adults that are working are performing phisical work in rural areas. In urban areas most of the older adults that are working are in less phisically active jobs such as academic staff, teachers, doctors etc. Although due to the bad financial situation, there are older adults working even after retirement doing variety of jobs without regulation. The awareness for healthy ageing is present in most of the inquired older adults. Those in good health try to stay active, however the few of bad health that were interviewed were limited by their frailty and the care for them was also limited to the family members with the sociedy doing very little to help with the situation. The legal frames as far as we have searched are very few and the protection is mostly limited to reactive measures such as the obligatory personal accident and occupational disease insurance in Serbia and North Macedonia. The employers are also obliged by law to provide alternative work posts for ageing people and people with dissabilities that are no longer able to perform at their current post. The awareness for healthy ageing at work in Serbia is still low. Studies show that the ageing population, on most part, has good dietary habits, however they lack mechanisms and support for actively ageing and post-retirement work positions that would keep the older adults active in their post-retirement years. So in general we can conclude the following points:

  • People usually declare awareness for the need for healthy ageing
  • The contry governing institutions lack insentives for tackling the problem of healthy ageing
  • The contries have strategies for healthy ageing and institutions that work towards this but there are few mentions of healthy ageing at work policies or initiatives
  • People in rural areas stay at work and are active for longer periods and continue to work in agricultural fields mostly due to financial situation. The situation is similar in urban areas.
  • The perception of the people is that the country lacks interest in their needs
  • The care for the older adults is primarily limited to the help from relatives and close family members.

FUTURE COLLABORATIONS

In future I plan to continue the collaboration with the colleagues from Belgrade, towards obtaining more results from other countries in the vicinity and continue towards preparing the joint publication that will present in more details the results that obtained during the STSM.