Statistics of UAE’s population tell us that its inhabitants are young at age.
This may be true when considering biological age. However, looking at the functional age of the same population, numbers could rise.
Other than the biological age, which indicates the number of years that a person exists, functional age measures vital indicators of a person’s fitness, explains Salwa Al Suwaidi, Director of the Family Gathering Centre in Dubai.
Aging was the topic of the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) weekly Twitter clinic, in which specialists take place behind the DHA twitter handle and advise the public about relevant health issues.
“Functional age is an important indicator that people from the age of 40 should take into account, said Al Suwaidi.
“From the age of 40, people might age faster due to a lack of activity. Especially in a society where people live a sedentary lifestyle, obesity is widespread and physical exercise is limited functional aging appears.”
Functional aging has been the focus of senior health care providers.
Argued is that functional aging largely reflects the ability of elderly people to independently carry out daily activities, from climbing the stairs, to performing household tasks to cognitive functions such as reading.
“Functional age does not mean that people die younger. However, with functional aging the risks of developing multiple complications increase,” commented Al Suwaidi.
Although people live longer, they do not necessarily live happier, she argues.
“There are 12 vital indicators that constitute functional age, some of them being memory, fastness of visual response, auditory response, or brain response.
“If these indicators show rapid aging, a person might have a higher functional age than a biological age.
“If a person has a functional age of 60 years while his biological age is 35, he should seriously think about the way he is living his life.”
Although numbers of functionally aging people in the UAE are currently unavailable, Al Suwaidi estimates that they could be quite a lot.
Categorising the (biological) elderly as 65 years and above, she added that the elderly currently only make up five per cent of the UAE population.
“But we expect this number to rise to 11 per cent in 2032, and 19 per cent in 2050.”
In the Twitter clinic, several steps were discussed in order to prolong dependency of older people. The role of the family and/or caregiver was specifically emphasised. Rather than excluded from daily activities, elderly people should be encourage to participate in physical and leisure activities, which could include simple tasks like grocery shopping, gardening, going for a movie, walking etc.
Furthermore, regular check-up is important, the team argued.
Since recently, the Family Gathering houses a device which measures functional aging. The device measures the 12 indicators. “We recommend people from the age of 40 to test their functional age,” said Al Suwaidi.