What we know about the Health Challenges of the Ageing

health5There is a growing ‘epidemic’ of ageing populations, particularly the cognitive impaired or those suffering from Alzheimer’s , in need of high quality, safe, ethical and cost-effective healthcare. In 2010, over 35.6 million people lived with dementia worldwide, with numbers expected to double every 20 years, to approximately 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.The ageing population poses serious challenges for the traditional social welfare states. An increase in the prevalence of chronic physical and mental disorders in the elderly, which are already stretching the capacities of many social services including healthcare, have profound economic implications, not only in the developed countries and those in economies of transition, but, even more, in the developing nations . The increasing numbers of ageing people will also have severe socioeconomic implications on families and communities in all countries worldwide.

Research studies show that the burden of disease in ageing people is mainly from non-communicable diseases. Ischeamic  heart disease, stroke and chronic lung disease are the biggest killers. Dementia, visual and hearing impairment, and osteoarthritis are the main causes of disability. There are two major challenges relating to the health of the elderly:

  • The first is about the high prevalence of cognitive, emotional, mood-related and behavioural disorders which escalate with age, therefore requiring sensitive and pragmatic approaches to care and not just relying on the traditional and standardized protocols. This issue is compounded by the culturally-dependent fact that there are many situations and countries, where this vulnerable group of patients suffers discrimination in accessing health services and social welfare mechanisms, denial of rights to safe, quality care, and a lack of basic and humane approaches to health service delivery.
  • The second challenge relates to the naturally-occurring decline of functional integrity and physiological and organ changes that occur in the ageing body. Systems slow down, metabolic rates change, there is sensory deterioration, a decline in organ function, an almost doubling of body fat, loss of bone density and other such changes In these ageing patients, healthcare requires to be absolutely safety-focused and patient-centered, taking into account the natural cycles of declining bodily changes and metabolism, and the potential stresses of delivered treatments of care to the individual patient.

Among the ageing, dementia is the leading chronic disorder and contributor to disability and need for care. WHO data point to the fact that it is the greatest cause of years lost in developed countries and the second greatest worldwide. In this context, an expanding ageing population means that the number of people with dementia will continue to grow. More information at Reijin…….. ( website under development)