Planning ahead: the global implications of growing ageing populations

Planning ahead: the global implications of growing ageing populations

People across the world are living longer thanks to better healthcare. Now, a new study is helping policymakers prepare for the challenges of global ageing populations.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has carried out a study to investigate the prevalence of activity limitations among ageing populations in 23 low- and middle-income countries.

In order to create adequate health and social care support for the elderly in low-income countries, policymakers need to have information about how people are ageing and what kind of support they will need.

The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

Preparing for the future

Using data from the World Health Survey and the UN World Population Prospects, the study makes projections of ageing populations with severe activity limitations for low- and middle-income countries.

Daniela Weber, the lead author of the study and a researcher in the IIASA World Population Program, said: “Just like high-income countries, low- and middle-income countries face a continuous increase in their share of older adults. Up to now, we, however, did not know much about how people age in these countries. In this study, we wanted to answer questions like whether we should expect many unhealthy older adults. How do people in low- and middle-income countries age? And, how many older adults with severe activity limitations, that most likely will not be able to live an independent life, can we expect in the next 30 years?”

The researchers studied health status based on the activity limitations of the elderly, forecasting how many people over the age of 50 with severe activity limitations in 23 low- and middle-income countries, showing high rates of activity limitations for the next 30 years.

The authors noted that there was similar health trends in these countries than in high-income countries, and the projections reveal a large variation in the proportion of older adults with physical limitations across the 23 countries investigated due to disparities in health conditions in the respective countries, but also to differences in cultural peculiarities of reporting (such as it being more common to complain in some cultures than in others), and historical perceptions of health.

Study author and IIASA researcher, Sergei Scherbov, stated: “The significance of population ageing and its global implications cannot be overstated. It is important to raise awareness, not only about global issues pertaining to population ageing, but also the importance of rigorous cross-national research and policy dialogue that will help address the challenges and opportunities of an ageing world. This study contributes to the body of research that will help policymakers prepare for a future marked by the challenges associated with the continued growth of the world’s ageing population. Preparing financially for longer lives and finding ways to reduce ageing-related disability are likely to become national and global priorities.”

The authors suggest that all of the countries studied are facing considerable demographic changes that will require policy interventions.

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