We hear of the ageing population in Europe and can see that many are not ageing with the level of health and dignity to which we aspire. The successful stories and ideas that are being shared and generated at this conference will have an important role to play.
I was touched by this aspiration in a personal way when my mother lived her last years with dementia. We were fortunate to have the support of skilled and experienced carers who also provided us with a way to understand how to support both my mother and our family members.
This was in the early 1990s and when I asked the assistant nurse what type of dementia education she had received, she answered “I have no education in dementia care!" After that day, I met experts and motivated individuals who assisted in the foundation of an education unit for assistant nurses working in dementia care.
It was Valentines Day, February 1996, when Silviahemmet started the first education program in dementia care for assistant nurses together with a day care unit for persons with dementia.
The philosophy underlying the program aspires to best quality of life for those living with dementia and their close families - through all stages of dementia. Silviahemmet is a not-for-profit organisation which provides education programs for assistant nurses and nurses, who now work throughout Sweden. I have found their enthusiasm and dedicated care very inspiring. Today 210 assistant nurses have passed the examination and received the title Silvia Sister and 57 nurses have received the title Silvia Nurse. Last week I met a new group of students starting the education program. The 84 assistant nurses were assembled from many different regions in the country.
I am also delighted that Silviahemmet is part of the new Swedish Dementia Centre, which the Government founded with the intent to promote knowledge and understanding about dementia and dementia care.
Both care and understanding are important for healthy and dignified ageing. This encompasses not only the medical treatment - it is also our attitudes towards ageing and health both as individuals and collectively. I see further potential in providing education for carers and care workers. I hope that the fields of both health for the elderly and geriatrics will develop and continue to attract professional interest.
Let me also highlight the central role of informal carers and supporters of healthy and dignified ageing. The husbands, wives, children, relatives and -- friends who care for their loved ones. These informal carers also require recognition and support for their own health and quality of life, which I appreciate from my own experience.
I see in this room people bringing together initiatives from all over Europe. Our potential is to further cooperation with a focus on supporting the elderly and their carer.
I wish that these days will be inspirational for all of you participating in this conference. That it will bring coordinated action and become a catalyst for improving health and dignity for the elderly throughout Europe.