Institute gets international nod

19 September 2005

The Albertina and Walter Sisulu Institute of Ageing in Africa (IAA), based in the faculty of health sciences, is making its international mark.

After a two-and-a-half year process, the institute was recently admitted to the International Longevity Centre (ILC) Alliance. This group is an international research, policy and educational consortium founded in 1990 to help societies and individuals prepare for the "unprecedented" increase in longevity and population ageing in recent times.

The UCT institute became, at the time of the announcement, only the seventh research unit in the world to be accepted by the alliance, and the first in Africa. Sister ILCs are in the US, the UK, Japan, France, India, the Dominican Republic and, as the group's newest member, Argentina.

IAA director, Professor Monica Ferreira, will act as president of the International Longevity Centre - South Africa (ILCSA). Dr Sebastiana Kalula, head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UCT, has been named as deputy president.

For the most part, it will be business as usual at the IAA, which centres its research on ageing issues in Africa. So, for example, it has done work on the burden placed on the continent's elderly who, in many AIDS-ravaged communities, are increasingly expected to step into the breach and look after the orphaned young.

That selfsame research will also feed into the big-picture work the IAA will take on as part of the five programmes it will be running under the ILCSA banner. These will include studies on quality of life, on empowering carers who look after those affected by HIV/AIDS, and on elder abuse.

With the backing of the ILC, the Institute of Ageing in Africa hopes to get word of its work out to the general public. "The ILC has its own thrust," says Ferreira. "It's more about mainstreaming longevity, about promoting positive ageing and productive ageing." A healthier, older population has implications for all spheres of society - from governments to employers to individuals, says Ferreira.

"You can't, when people turn 65, put them out on the stoep in a rocking chair anymore." Ferreira has already received an invitation - to speak on ageing in Africa - from the ILC in New York in the US to deliver its prestigious Harold Hatch International Lecture at the end of 2006 or early in 2007.

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