EUGLOREH project
THE STATUS OF HEALTH IN THE EUROPEAN UNION:
TOWARDS A HEALTHIER EUROPE

FULL REPORT

PART II - HEALTH CONDITIONS

9. MAIN HEALTH ISSUES AND TRENDS FOR DIFFERENT AGE AND GENDER POPULATION GROUPS

9.4. Elderly

9.4.1. Introduction

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9.4. Elderly

 

9.4.1. Introduction

 

Ageing is one of the greatest social, economic and health challenges in the 21st century. The number of older people in Europe is increasing. This, combined with lower birth rates, gender, the impact of ageing on one’s quality of life and the increased longevity poses new challenges for policy makers and the resources available to citizens to experience a high quality of life in the years to come.

 

Europe has the highest percentage of people aged 65 or more, 60% of which are women. Life expectancy for women in the EU is currently 81.2 years compared to 75.1 years for men. The EU population of people aged 80 and over (currently 3%) will triple over the next 50 years, while the median age in the EU (37.7) will increase to 52.3 in 2028. These demographic changes will challenge healthcare systems and the society itself.

 

Ageing is an individual experience mediated by the social-biological and environment context. The older population is a diverse group. Some individuals feel independent and mobile into very old age while others experience severe difficulties due to ill-health. Furthermore, the socio-structural factors that shape youth and mid-life experience, such as social class, gender and ethnicity, impact the experience of later life. It is important for perceptions to change so that older people are seen as a resource who have contributed to economic growth and the public health budget throughout their lifetime (and not as a burden).

 

health promotion policy and health service delivery must be combined with economic, environmental and general social policy to ensure that an integrated approach to healthcare is delivered to all citizens regardless of their age. The theme of integrated care for older people is central to the three objectives of the national policy on healthcare and care for older people highlighted by the European Commission; accessibility, quality and financial sustainability (European Commission, 2003). Research stresses the importance of local and community implementation of national and European public health policies for older people and the need for effective communication of health promotion policies to target groups.

 

Diversity in relation to health needs within the older population must be reflected in policies and clinical practice. Public policy must address individual needs, preferences, social and cultural circumstances and always try to be person-centred (International Longevity Centre, 2006).