Ageing population

According to a report published by the World Health Organisation, for the first time in human history the old - defined as people over the age of 65 - are due to outnumber the young - children under the age of 5. This unprecedented situation will have come about by the year 2020.

According to a report published by the World Health Organisation, for the first time in human history the old - defined as people over the age of 65 - are due to outnumber the young - children under the age of 5. This unprecedented situation will have come about by the year 2020.The report looks briefly at the implications of this with regard to the financial and social consequences.

 

The report identifies one of the key questions, and one of the key factors affecting how this plays out, to be the state of health of this ageing population. "As both the proportion of older people and the length of life increase throughout the world, key questions arise. Will population ageing be accompanied by a longer period of good health, a sustained sense of well-being, and extended periods of social engagement and productivity, or will it be associated with more illness, disability, and dependency?"

 

The report also recognises that people in the later stages of life potentially have a lot to offer "…. understanding of the changing relationship between health with age is crucial if we are to create a future that takes full advantage of the powerful resource inherent in older populations."

 

This change in the balance of population age has come about due to widespread improvement in medical care and living conditions for large swathes of the world's population. This applies to what the report calls low- and middle-income as well as high-income countries, and has resulted in a lowering of death rates from "infectious and parasitic diseases". Unfortunately, the resulting longevity has been accompanied by - and logic might say it has been the the cause of - an increase in the rates of chronic and non-communicable diseases - heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke chief among these, as well as an increase in the numbers of people suffering with Dementia. The increase in these chronic conditions has hugh potential costs to, and implications for, all countries.

 

Given the growing proportion of the population over 65 and the potential problems associated with that, the report identifies the need for older people to remain mobile, independent and self-caring, saying "... there is mounting evidence from cross-national data that — with appropriate policies and programs — people can remain healthy and independent well into old age and can continue to contribute to their communities and families." The rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc are all subject to reduction through lifestyle factors - basically good diet and exercise. Mobility and independence can be similarly maintained, particularly through exercise. Even one's brain can be maintained in better shape according to theories put forward by among others Professor Michael Merzenich.

 

If you love high fat, processed food and hate the thought of spending time in the gym or going running, then it's going to be a big ask to do those things just in order to avoid medical conditions which, although on the increase, may never happen to you. A more positive approach is to get involved in a sport that demands good conditioning in order to perform it well and safely. Then you can enjoy the health benefits as a by product.

 

SGSC came into being as a "bringer of joy". Now it seems that maintaining health and strength in one's later years has become a globally important issue.