May, 17 is the Norwegian National Day, one of my favourite days of the year since I was very little. All you can eat ice cream, hot dogs, and playing until you’re completely worn out.
As Norwegians, we have a lot to be proud of in terms of taking care of the most vulnerable members in our communities.
As I was growing up, an essential part of 17 mai was the tradition of visiting the local senior centers. Since the elderly were no longer able to join the festivities, we would bring the party to them, play our instruments, and sing songs.
The Norwegian welfare state - emphasis on giving the elderly a dignified life
In the early 1970s, Norway struck (black) gold, by discovering one of the most important petroleum reserves in the North Sea. The Norwegian government did not hesitate to set establish a welfare state that would protect and promote the economic and social well-being of all its citizens, equally.
Norwegian senior - on track to being the World’s happiest retirees
From then to now, Norwegian citizens still enjoy the benefits of egalitarian policies in the education and labour market, to healthcare and elderly care. In fact, Norway is ranked as the top country in terms of happiness among seniors1.
Like all state-run initiatives, there are challenges and imperfections, that includes social care for the elderly. The Norwegian elderly care system is under constant scrutiny by the local media outlets.
Nevertheless, the Norwegian system is unique in its dedication to improving the services they deliver to the elderly. As evidenced by a reform that came into effect at the beginning of 2019.
Why is there such a strong emphasis on elderly care in Norway?
In the last 40 years, the average Norwegian has increased their life expectancy by 10 years! That’s an incredible testament to the advances of modern medical science.
In practice, this means that Norwegians spend about 30 years living in retirement. That’s a long time, and the journey from 67 to 97 is also a period during which your body, health, and resources undergo severe transformations.
As a consequence, everyone’s needs will be unique.
So how is the World’s richest country planning to help their Baby Boomers?
The goal is for all elderly people to receive help and support to master their daily lives. Living a full life, your whole life, by covering the basic requirements.
Given the problem statement, what resulted from gathering input from the elderly and their relatives, volunteers, and professionals, was a list of resolutions2.
The five focus areas of the Norwegian state
- Age-friendly Norway - the emphasis here is on sharing the responsibility with all sectors of the National economy to have an inclusive society that considers all generations. From designing services and products to making efforts to valuing everyone as a productive resource.
- Activity and community - for those who have already lived a long life, the purpose is to continue enabling a life filled with dignity and meaning.
- Proper food and nutrition - as this reduces the need for medications and give the elderly more energy. No one should have to live off ready-made meals 7 nights a week.
- Quality health care - This carries many meanings, but in its context refers to the elderly feeling valued, seen, and involved in decisions that concern their health. For example, in the form of appropriate medication to optimise for a high quality of life, and the energy to continue in an active lifestyle.
- Relationship in the healthcare services - must be interlinked and based on the individual’s needs.
Sounds nice, but what does this mean in practice?
While it’s still early to tell, given that the new policy came into effect in January of this year, it is unlikely that the changes will come in the form of a U-turn.
Instead, it’s expected to be a continuation of the work that is being done as well as funds to hold both private and public institutions accountable for the
To ensure that solutions are deployed throughout the country, the government establishes a device that will provide the municipalities with professional support and guidance to adapt their solutions to local needs and resources. The need for such support has been clearly communicated in the dialogue meetings around the country.
The government proposes to allocate NOK 48 million to this in 2019.
An example of growing old in Norway - my Borghild besta
My Norwegian granny was from the West Coast in Norway. She was the first in her family to get an education but never left the region. In fact, she lived most of her life in the small town of Sogndal in Sogn og Fjordane.
She lived her last years in the ’90s, even then what the Norwegian state was able to offer her was advanced, even by today’s standards.
Borghild had a bracelet that she wore around the house. In case of an emergency, such as a fall, she could just push this button, and a nurse would come over immediately to check on her.
She also experienced mobility issues caused by a bad hip. The nearby senior center would bring her dinner and groceries a few times a week and help her with
My besta died peacefully in her own home at the very mature age of 95. Up until the very end, she would make us meatballs and waffles whenever we came to visit on the weekends. Quite an accomplishment in my eyes!
We know we’re lucky in Norway!
It might be worth mentioning that the story for my Greek grandmother looks VERY different. I’ll have to save that for a later post.
The key, monetary, results from senior care in Norway
IPPR, a free market thinktank in the UK, concluded in a recent research study that social care should be modeled on the state pension. Meaning it should be free for all those over the age of 653. The cost of this is justified by older people being in better health as a result of improved support at home, and thus end up in the hospital less. A service that is much more expensive to offer.
In countries like Norway, the state is making risky bets with high investments, but the return is many-folds when calculated in the long run.
The long way forward
The hallmark of a civilised society is how we treat our most vulnerable, including our elderly parents and grandparents.
We are currently failing them because the state can not handle the rising demand on its own. We need both private and public institutions to work together on this. Not just in Norway - the Baby Boomer generation is reaching retirement all around the World.
At Mon Tonton, this is precisely the problems we are motivated to tackle. If you are looking for help, reach out to us now!
In loving memory of Borghild besta
17 years since you left us, and I still haven't had better meatballs.