The general reduction of mobility and social participation of the elderly may result in lower overall satisfaction and quality of life. These problems are even more pronounced in individuals with chronic rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). Therefore, continued self-determined mobility in everyday life particularly of the older individuals with RMDs is a challenge for different stakeholders and society. Mental and physical health can be improved by function-adapted exercises, which are being provided by the services of patient associations. Because of the demographic changes an increasing number of older members of the national organisations of People with Arthritis/Rheumatism in Europe (PARE) are expected in the future. Therefore, data about the existing services of the PARE organisations addressing the special needs of elderly people with RMDs and their views is required for planning advanced programmes.
In our study the existing PARE services considering the needs of elderly people (65+) with impaired mobility were examined. A standardised questionnaire was mailed to 133 regional and nationwide organisations of the German League against Rheumatism (GLR) and to 36 PARE institutions in other countries. In addition 1,000 members of the GLR (age 65+) received a questionnaire about their utilisation of the services and their needs.
One third of the GLR institutions mentioned special services for the elderly. These services include exercises adapted to age-related functional limitations, patient education, cultural and social events, special advice and visiting services for members who are temporarily or permanently immobile. The 13 responding PARE institutions in other countries mentioned education material addressing different diseases, the prevention of falls and home visits.
Some of the PARE institutions and 25 per cent of the GLR institutions offer transport services for elderly individuals with impaired mobility, which are partly outsourced. 20 per cent of the GLR members are interested in transport services. According to the GLR most of the particular needs of persons of the age 65+ are already covered by the existing services. However, 20 per cent of the responding members state, that they are not able to participate in desired services mainly because these are not available or not accessible or because of impaired health.
The members addressed the following suggestions for improvement to the GLR: more professional support for persons in charge within the DLR, reduced number of participants in discussion groups, access to the GLR services for all members, i.e., instead of limitation to individuals with physicians' prescriptions additional access for members after out-of-pocket payment. More general demands were the reimbursement of costs for functional training, improved collaboration between health insurance and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, and the unlimited inclusion in the society. Particularly the elderly members of the responding 65+ cohort asked for more social services rather than exclusively exercise groups in the GLR.
In a joint of effort all stakeholders should develop and implement more services especially designed for the elderly individuals with impaired mobility due to RMDs. In this process both empirical experts and researchers are needed. Apart from adequate financial support more public alertness and appreciation of the large numbers of volunteers working in this field is necessary.
Disclosure of Interest None declared