30 September 2009
The United Nations World Assembly on Ageing has made advancing health and well-being into old age a worldwide call for action. This text demonstrates what researchers worldwide are doing to answer that call. Here, three of America's most esteemed experts on ageing lead a global team of contributors - each an expert in his or her country - in highlighting the top challenges facing each nation and the research being conducted to overcome these. As an expert from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned at a recent UN World Assembly on Aging “While we cannot predict with absolute certainty the issues that will arise over the next 20 years, we can anticipate some and we must start now to prepare for these challenges. However, responding to the global population shift is not only the responsibility of governments, but will be a product of wise, long-term decisions made by individuals and societies.” she explained.
In most nations globally, populations are ‘greying’ and the number of people aged 65 and older is increasing, creating a larger segment of senior citizens than the world has ever seen. In recent human history, the elderly accounted for no more than 3 per cent of the world population. By the year 2030, the elderly are expected to make up about 25 per cent of the world’s population. While longevity is viewed as a great success, a longer lifespan for such masses also creates dilemmas. For example, the incidence of dementia has already increased significantly, with an 11-fold increase in people aged 65 and older in the US since the turn of the century. A similar increase in older people in Scotland is expected to lead to a 75 per cent increase in the numbers with dementia over the next 25 years. Chronic diseases that come with ageing are already taxing health care systems around the world from the US to Japan, with most experts warning that current health systems will be overrun through the unprecedented growth in the elderly population in the coming two decades. Increases in psychological problems, such as depression, which often strikes older people, and the changing shape of the family, are among other issues that this volume considers.
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