The cost of Union health and social care systems is rising, with care and prevention measures in all ages increasingly expensive. The number of Europeans aged over 65 is expected to nearly double from 85 million in 2008 to 151 million by 2060, and the number of those over 80 is expected to rise from 22 to 61 million in the same period. Reducing or containing these costs so that they do not become unsustainable depends partly on improving the lifelong health and well-being of all and therefore on the effective prevention, treatment and management of disease and disability.
Chronic conditions and diseases are major causes of disability, ill-health, health-related retirement and premature death, and present considerable social and economic costs.
Due to higher life expectancy the age and population structure in Europe will change. Therefore, research furthering lifelong health, active ageing and well-being for all will be a cornerstone of the successful adaptation of societies to demographic change.
European research programmes are vital instruments to achieve this goal. The Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7; 2007-2013) supports research into the process of healthy ageing and age-related illnesses, biomedical advances, as well as prevention and disease management strategies. Targeted research calls focus on gathering the knowledge required to improve public health strategies, and achieve high-quality healthcare and healthcare systems.
As in the case of child health research, funding of research on the health of an ageing population is also addressed as a cross-cutting issue in the entire FP7 health theme. This is a reflection of the need for age-related health issues to filter through the gamut of research fields.
FP7 research activities into the health of an ageing population will help unravel the basic mechanisms of human development and ageing, provide the knowledge base to promote healthy living and address complex issues triggered by our changing expectations of life.
Research on human development and ageing includes:
- determining the biomarkers of ageing,
- understanding the developmental processes of long-lived organisms throughout their lives,
- studying the immune system in old age,
- establishing a roadmap on ageing research in Europe,
- increasing the participation of eldery in clinical trials,
- studying determinants of ageing and longevity and the role of environment,
- building a consensus definition of frailty.
Since the beginning of FP7, over €115 million have been invested to support collaborative, multidisciplinary projects in the area of Human Development and Ageing.