I was very pleased to find a whole series of articles dealing with healthcare, one of the main concerns of today’s civilization, that is, the aging of population.
This issue is in the heart of our care and activities that are to a great extent focused on offering health packages for elderly customers with chronic conditions.
Here are the highlights from the article “Health in an aging world” which, as a complete text can be found at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2814%2961597-X/fulltext
The ageing of populations is becoming the next global public health challenge. During the next 5 years, for the first time in history, people aged 65 years and older in the world will outnumber children aged younger than 5 years. Advances in medicine and socioeconomic development have substantially reduced mortality and morbidity rates due to infectious conditions and, to some extent, non-communicable diseases. These demographic and epidemiological changes, coupled with rapid urbanisation, modernisation, globalisation, and accompanying changes in risk factors and lifestyles, have increased the importance and visibility of chronic conditions.
Today health systems need to find effective strategies to increase health care and to respond to the needs of older adults (aged 60 years and older). The specific needs of older adults, who often have many chronic health conditions, will have to be addressed by health systems. Healthcare for older adults that is effective, safe, efficient, and responsive, without imposing an unbearable financial burden on individuals, will be central to achievement of the goal of universal and national health coverage. Furthermore, in the post-2015 development agenda, the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for everyone at all ages cannot be achieved without attention to the health of older adults.
Another striking change that has been happening in the past three decades offers hope for the health of older adults—a continuing fall in mortality at older ages. This fall has been sharpest in high-income countries, driven by highly cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use and hypertension, and improved coverage and effectiveness of health interventions. However, with increased international commitment, sound policies, and strengthening of health systems, the gains in life expectancy in older adults could be feasible in all countries.
Population ageing is the biggest driver of substantial rises in prevalence of chronic conditions, such as dementia, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes that are strongly associated with age. Increased survival with cardiovascular disease and other conditions will also mean greater disability at older ages.
The trends in functioning in older people and the effect of interventions need to deliver cost-effective solutions. The call for better health data globally should include the populations that are driving future trends. To increase the health span (the length of time that an individual is able to maintain good health) of older adults by maintaining adequate levels of functioning, and not merely preventing deaths from disease, will be the cornerstone of health interventions.
Besides ensuring the good physical health of older adults, subjective wellbeing also needs to be ensured. Although in high-income countries subjective wellbeing has a typical U-shaped pattern with age, generally, poor health status is significantly associated with negative emotional status and reduced life satisfaction. Since the two-way relation between health and subjective wellbeing is associated with longer survival, economic and social policies need to target this component in older adults, more so in view of the proposed post-2015 goal of promoting wellbeing at all ages.
Because a substantial proportion of older adults will have poor health and be in need of long-term care, this will not only strain health systems but will also have economic implications. Effective treatment of chronic diseases to reduce disability, an extension of basic packages of cost-effective interventions to match the needs of older adults with appropriate technologies, a reduction of reliance on institutional care, training of appropriate human resources are all necessary. Primary care systems need to be age-friendly, with appropriately trained healthcare professionals. The encouragement of healthy lifestyles is essential. Only then can we ensure that, as we live longer, we will do so in good health.