London: In a new study, scientists have claimed that ageing is an issue that needs to be addressed globally, for unless some effective strategies were found to cater to old age problems, it would greatly affect the quality of life of older people.
As people across the world live longer, soaring levels of chronic illness and diminished wellbeing were poised to become a major global public health challenge.
As life expectancy of older people continues to rise worldwide, by 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older would outnumber children younger than 5 years. By 2050, the world's population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion, up from 841 million today. 80 percent of these older people would be living in low-income and middle-income countries.
The increase in longevity, especially in high-income countries (HICs), has been largely due to the decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease, mainly because of simple, cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use and high blood pressure, and improved coverage and effectiveness of health interventions.
However, although people are living longer, they are not necessarily healthier than before, as nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the overall global burden of death and illness has been seen in people aged over 60, which has been attributable to long-term illness caused by diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease, musculoskeletal diseases, and mental and neurological disorders.
This long-term burden of illness and diminished wellbeing affects patients, their families, health systems, and economies, and is forecast to accelerate. For example, latest estimates indicate that the number of people with dementia is expected to rise from 44 million now, to 135 million by 2050.
Dr John Beard, co-leader of the Series with Dr Ties Boerma and Dr Somnath Chatterji, from WHO, said the deep and fundamental reforms of health and social care systems would be required, there was a need to be careful that the reforms don't reinforce the inequities that drive much of the poor health and functional limitation seen in older age.
Dr Ties Boerma added that while some interventions would be universally applicable, it would be important that countries monitor the health and functioning of their ageing populations to understand health trends and design programmes that meet the specific needs identified. Cross-national surveys and other longitudinal cohorts studies of ageing in Brazil, China, India, and South Korea, have begun to redress the balance and provide the evidence for policy, but much more remains to be done.
However, the responsibility for improving quality of life for the world's older people goes far beyond the health sector, say the Series authors. Strategies are needed that better prevent and manage chronic conditions by extending affordable health care to all older adults and take into consideration the physical and social environment.
According to Dr Chatterji, also from WHO said that collectively, there was a need to look beyond the costs commonly associated with ageing to think about the benefits that an older, healthier, happier, and more productive older population could bring to society as a whole.
The study is published in The Lancet.