Europe's population growth is falling and its citizens are ageing. By 2050, the number of people over 65 in the EU will increase by 70 %, and the number of people over 80 will grow by 170 %.
In response, governments must address the economic and social implications of an ageing population. They must also prepare for increasing demands on healthcare, as a rapidly ageing society heralds growing populations with chronic diseases, disabilities, and increasing health needs.
The European Union recognises that confronting this change is essential. The goal is to support healthy, active and productive lifestyles for Europe's older people, and the challenge is one that requires comprehensive and integrated activities.
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.