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The healthy ageing challenge - Growing old healthily

The Healthy Ageing Challenge- Growing old healthily

One of the biggest challenges Europe is facing is the changing demographic of the population. People are living much longer. The number of Europeans over 65 will double in the next 50 years and the number of over 80's will almost triple. This means we need to adapt healthcare policies to accommodate our ageing population and to meet the higher demand for health services.

In order to bring attention to this issue, the European Commission has designated 2012 as the "European Year for Active Ageing", and the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing has been selected as a pilot to tackle the challenge of an ageing population.

The working-age population will shrink; the strongest pressure is expected to occur during the period 2015-35 when the so-called baby-boom generation will enter retirement. The key challenge is to promote healthy and active ageing for European citizens, in particular the prevention of chronic diseases and the prolongment of disability and dependency.

Even though life expectancy continues to increase, "unhealthy life years" make up around 20% of a persons life. In other words, it is the quality of years lived that is important. If someone lives to the age of 90 in excellent health then we can say they have had 90 healthy life years; however, if someone lives to 90 but spends the last 20 years in poor health they may be living longer but some years are spent in poor health. As life expectancy increases, it is important that the number of years lived is in perfect or good health not bad health.

More research is needed for a better understanding of the aging process. Careful planning for high quality cost-effective healthcare is also needed. Awareness of diseases such as depression and dementia needs to be raised. Older people need to increase their level of physical activity, stop smoking and reduce their alcohol consumption. Active ageing includes creating more opportunities for older people to continue working, to stay healthy longer and to continue to contribute to society.

Read more about what the EU is doing to promote healthy ageing

European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing

Conference – Active and Healthy Ageing: From plan to action

AGE Platform Europe – A European network of around 165 organisations of and for people aged 50+.