What are the public health implications of global ageing?

Online Q&A
29 September 2011

Q: What are the public health implications of global ageing?

A: From 2000 until 2050, the world's population aged 60 and over will more than triple from 600 million to 2 billion. Most of this increase is occurring in less developed countries - where the number of older people will rise from 400 million in 2000 to 1.7 billion by 2050.

This demographic change has several implications for public health. Good health is key if older people are to remain independent and to play a part in family and community life. Life-long health promotion and disease prevention activities can prevent or delay the onset of noncommunicable and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

But these diseases also need to be detected and treated early to minimize their consequences, and those who have an advanced disease will need decent long term care and support. These services are best delivered through comprehensive primary care.

Public health action can also draw on the capacities of older people. For example, the world's growing population of older people plays a critical role through volunteering, transmitting experience and knowledge, helping their families with caring responsibilities and increasing their participation in the paid labour force.

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