Worldwide, life expectancy of older people continues to rise. By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older will 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% of these older people will be living in low-income and middle-income countries [Paper 1].
The increase in longevity, especially in high-income countries (HICs), has been largely due to the decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease (stroke and ischaemic heart 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— nearly a quarter (23%) of the overall global burden of death and illness is in people aged over 60, and much of this burden is attributable to long-term illness caused by diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease, musculoskeletal diseases (such as arthritis and osteoporosis), and mental and neurological disorders [Paper 2].
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.
“Deep and fundamental reforms of health and social care systems will be required,”* says Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at the World Health Organization (WHO), and co-leader of the Series with Dr Ties Boerma and Dr Somnath Chatterji, also from WHO. “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.”*
The Latest on: Ageing population
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The Latest on: Ageing population
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