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Our ageing population 'risks a poor quality of life' unless action is taken now

A major new study has warned that urgent reform is needed.

Image: old woman via Shutterstock

ALTHOUGH WE ARE all be expected to live longer, researchers have warned that our quality of life will diminish in our twilight years unless action is taken now.

In a major new series of papers published today by The Lancet, researchers from the World Health Organisation have predicted that health systems across the world need to adjust to the massive boom in the ageing population in future, or else face the prospect of spiraling levels of chronic illness impacting on quality of life.

Dr John Beard, a co-leader of this new research and an expert in ageing at the World Health Organization, said that this reform must be “deep and fundamental”.

“But we must be careful that these reforms do not reinforce the inequities that drive much of the poor health and functional limitation we see in older age,” Beard added.

There’s already signs that even though we’re living longer, we’re not healthier. Almost a quarter of the ‘overall global burden of illness and death’ are in those aged over 60, due to long-term illnesses that are more likely to become an issue in old age.

One paper published today has suggested that rather than shifting the responsibility to reform of health services, more societal rethinking is needed.

This includes an emphasis on healthy lifestyles to aim for prevention rather than treatment of illness to making better use of technology to help treat more people.

There has also been a suggestion that allowing people to continue to work past retirement age, or by removing tax disincentives, will improve their general well-being.

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Within five years, the number of people over 60 and older will outnumber children under 5, according to one paper published today.

By 2050, the world will see the number of people aged 60 and over grow by more than 300% to two billion.

With this comes an increase in the number of people with serious illness and conditions – the number of people with dementia is predicted to grow from 44 million to 135 million by 2050 – leading to increased strain on health systems and the economy.

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About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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