Michael Nason, CEO of CUH Charity, outlines the key messages of the Irish Examiner & CUH campaign 'Healthy Ageing Week'. He talks to
Despite a worldwide pandemic and ongoing restrictions, people have been extraordinary in their generosity towards Cork University Hospital.
Since Covid-19 struck in March 2020, all planned fundraising activities for CUH were cancelled. Nonetheless, despite these cancellations and despite ongoing restrictions, Michael Nason, CEO of CUH Charity, said human kindness shone through. One of the positives that has come out of Covid-19, he said, is that people realise the importance of having world-class hospitals and medical experts on their doorstep.
As we mark Healthy Ageing Week, he hopes we have become a community that embraces itself in a much better way going forward, a community which will care for its people.
Statistically, we know that a large proportion of our population will in the next few years be made up of older people – we are on average all living longer.
“We must work together so that this is a positive ageing process. New treatments and brilliant doctors and nurses can deliver excellent treatment plans when people need it but we have to realise that we can take simple steps ourselves in terms of exercise and diet that will help us live a healthier and more active life as we age positively.”
Given the number of older patients who use the services of CUH and the predicted demographic changes over the next 10 to 20 years it is the ambition of the CUH to become a proactive age-friendly hospital. The CUH Charity while raising funds for vital new projects is committed to working to build awareness around how we can all improve our health and help each other.
“We saw for instance when Apple donated iPads to Cork University Hospital at the beginning of this pandemic how it helped patients stay in touch with family and how it helped consultants stay in touch with families. This stimulated a big ambition in the CUH and CUMH to use technology progressively to engage with patients and their families and regularly share health improving data personalised to patient conditions. We feel that regular simple reminders of basic health tips around weight and exercise will be critical to contributing to a society that will have more older people who want to have an active and healthy lifestyle”.
Small changes encouraged by friends and family can also make a massive difference to how we live our lives.
If we engage positive and constructive medically sound advice then we can continue to do the things that bring us the greatest satisfaction for longer. While the hospital is there to help Michael says we are encouraging people to do things to keep themselves out of hospital.
“I realised for instance that at 56 years of age I am not actually as young as I may think, that I need to continue to mind myself and by that I mean I need to ensure that I am getting enough exercise, eating the right foods at the right time and keeping a good work life balance”.
Working in a hospital environment he said is a daily reminder that health is wealth – “so many health problems that exist today can be tackled with the right approach as we grow older - the key message is to take action now irrespective of what age you are, there is a plan that can improve your health.
“Ageing is a reality, positive ageing is a choice. I’ve started talking about positive ageing with different groups of friends. Talking is so healthy as it so often leads to an action – lets meet for a walk, lets go for a cycle on Saturday, let's go back playing soccer. Collective encouragement works and good friends support each other by their actions. A great and clever friend of mine organises walking tours around Cork and shares knowledge of local sites with those who turn up. There are so many ways to make exercise fun. Sometimes we are even allowed a coffee and Danish!
"A group of us have been playing poker online since last April. All proceeds from our gambling have gone to the CUH, but through healthy conversation during every game, I joke that they are only investing in their future healthcare. What has been interesting is that many of this group have got healthier during Covid and part of this is down to challenge and support from good friends.
“There are a few golfers in the group and the question of how long you can play for and how well is really determined by how you positively age. I try to give some hints and tips picked up from experts in the hospital and get the group to think about positively ageing by asking the provoking questions - do you want to watch golf when in your 70’s of be out there playing 18 holes every day. Do you want to kick a ball with your grandchildren or be out of breath in 5 minutes. I think we are all looking out for each other and encouraging a process of positively ageing – talk, laugh, exercise, eat well and positively look forward. If everyone partners with a good friend and creates a mutually beneficial health plan we can make changes happen.”
Funds are being raised for the refurbishment of CUH Geriatric Ward. “CUH is a large campus and it can be difficult to navigate for both staff and patients so we want to make it a friendly, easier environment to get around so we are working to have more signage – physically and online -with information on positive ageing and services available. We would like to see positive ageing information stations throughout the hospital and online eg information about dementia, delirium, falls, osteoporosis, exercise, weight management, medications management, hearing loss, visual impairment, driving, social services (eg access to medical card, home care, fair deal nursing, home support etc).
“Technology is key - we want to push quality information out into the community and link that to people’s phones and other wearable technology to encourage changes in diet and exercise and encourage people to monitor progress. The use of technology to positively drive health benefits has really been another key learning during covid.”
During Covid, Michael said CUH Charity saw huge support for the Breeda McGrath Memorial Fund which was set up to support cancer patients in times of financial difficulty.
“Companies, schools, families and individuals contacted us and wanted to help knowing just how much harder it was for families dealing with cancer in a Covid environment”.
The Irish spirit of giving was he said at its greatest when we saw fellow cancer patients contribute to those less well off at a time of great challenge. It was great he said to use these funds to enable some families just have a special weekend or enable a better Christmas.
For Valentine’s Day, Sarah Kelly, a teacher from Ballincollig organised a raffle for CUH Charity and managed to raise over €4,560. Prior to this, she ran an equally clever initiative – Shop Local for Cancer Care. Sarah raised funds, bought vouchers locally and donated these vouchers to people undergoing cancer treatment.
“On behalf of CUH Charity and everyone in the frontline we would like to say thank you for working with us through this time and thank you for the fundraising support that has come through”.
Michael said work has already started on building a ‘Garden of Remembrance’ funded through donations from the public – funds that were given to honour the efforts of all frontline workers. A garden which he said will be enjoyed by staff and patients for many years to come.
Visit CUH Charity for information on how to support services for elderly patients at Cork University Hospital.