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Healthy to 100

November 27, 2021 7:29 am
People are living longer, and healthier lives. [Source: Michael Joiner, 360info]

In nations around the world, both developed and developing, people are living longer.

It’s good news for those hoping to live well to 100, but for economies and families, the implications are dramatic.

As populations shift and families become smaller there are fewer options for older people traditionally cared for by their adult children, driving a crisis in aged care.

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Elder abuse is also on the rise. COVID-19 related challenges are not helping as older people are more isolated and more pressure is put on existing healthcare settings.

In 2021, the UN kicked off a “Decade of Healthy Ageing” with action focused on age-friendly environments, integrated care (including palliative care), combating ageism and long-term care.

REALITY CHECK

There are already more than 1 billion people aged 60 or over and most live in low to middle-income countries.

The number of people aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million.

The ageing of the population is happening faster in many developing economies: France took about 150 years to rise from 10% to 20% of the population being older than 60, for India, China and Brazil the same transition will happen in about 20 years.

BIG IDEAS
(Quotes attributable to Professor V. Srikanth, National Centre for Healthy Ageing, Monash University and Peninsula Health)

In many countries, ageing is perceived to be inevitably associated with a decline in a person’s function, and portrayed as a burden on the health system.

But in fact, many people are living good, purposeful and productive lives as they age despite having three or four health conditions, so to whom is it really a problem?

How can we switch our thinking to see how older people can be empowered and enabled to have purpose and productivity?

A real issue facing older people is social isolation and the basic human need for connectedness – loneliness is associated with an increased risk for stroke and heart disease.

But this is more of a question for sociology than medicine.

Technology is sometimes put forward as the answer to healthy ageing and dealing with isolation, but there’s a tension between solutions that monitor older people’s health, and human contact.

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