DISTINCTION. Professor Ingmar Skoog has been voted Senior Citizen of the Year. The honor is given by the magazine Senioren and is intended to recognize a person who has helped change how senior citizens are viewed or who has been a good example for others. Skoog has been very critical of how society has treated elderly people during the pandemic and was quick to argue that public authorities should listen more to the evidence and the expertise of those who study the aging population.
Senioren is a member’s magazine for the Swedish Association for Senior Citizens (SPF Seniorerna), one of Sweden’s largest organizations for senior citizens. During the late winter, readers voted for their favorite nominees to be named Senior Citizen of the Year, and Ingmar Skoog won.
“It was possible to vote online but apparently I won with votes sent on postcards. It is a lovely thought that so many people took the time to mail a postcard to vote,” says Ingmar Skoog, who feels very honored.
“Two of the other candidates, Agnes Wold and Anders Tegnell, were two of the most written about people last year, and it is really an honor that so many still chose to vote for me.”
A critical voice
Ingmar Skoog was also in the media often last year. Since the pandemic began, he has been a regular expert on elderly persons in the media’s coronavirus coverage.
“Some days I’ve spoken to four or five journalists, and I notice many elderly people appreciate my participation. Sometimes I get email or people come up to me to thank me for being their voice in the media.” Skoog also has a regular column in Senioren and a blog on the magazine’s website.
Skoog is director for the Centre for Aging and Health (AgeCap) at the University of Gothenburg, which brings together multidisciplinary research to improve capabilities in aging. He is very critical, in particularly, of how the Public Health Agency of Sweden diminished all 70-year-olds as fragile and vulnerable individuals who must be protected.
“I expressed criticism early on about the authority’s lack of knowledge about elderly care homes. Together with other researchers on aging, I wrote a critical article in March last year in the daily Aftonbladet where we argued that the expertise of researchers on aging needed to be included in the fight against the pandemic.”
For the last few months, he has been part of two coronavirus-related expert groups: the Coronavirus Commission expert group for infectious disease questions and a group working on assignment from the Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO).
Children livened up daily life in elderly care
During the autumn, he participated as an expert in an acclaimed TV4 series recorded before the pandemic. In the series, 4-year-olds from a preschool were matched with residents of an elderly care home, which livened up their day and proved to improve health among the elderly.
“The series is a respectful and touching account, where the viewers get to know the people who actually live in elderly care. It was both hopeful and joyful to see how the elderly stirred to life when they interacted with the children. We saw great improvements in every function we tested, more than what we experts thought was possible.”
The series cannot be compared to a scientific study since it lacked a control group, for example. But the amazing improvements have sparked interest in testing the approach in real preschools and elderly care when the pandemic is over. Representatives for several municipalities have contacted Ingmar Skoog to find out more since the series was broadcast.
Skoog’s efforts as the voice of reason during the pandemic also resulted in the Solsticke Prize last year, which is awarded by the Solstickan Foundation.
The series Fyraåringarna på äldreboendet (4-year-olds in the elderly home) is available on TV4 Play throughout April: https://www.tv4play.se/program/fyra%C3%A5ringarna-p%C3%A5-%C3%A4ldreboendet/.
The fourth nominee for Senior Citizen of the Year was the journalist Britta Svensson.
BY: ELIN LINDSTRÖM