Earlier this year, the World Health Organization released a report on aging and health. It’s a whopping 233 pages with the index, ranging on topics from healthy aging and policy development to recommendations for the future. You can read the entire report, focus on the sections of interest, or breeze through this post for the top takeaway points.
- Older people are living longer around the world. In low to middle income countries, the increase in lifespan is due to the reduction in mortality rates from childbirth and in childhood, and the reduction of infectious diseases. In higher income countries, the change is related to a decrease in mortality in older adults thanks to better nutrition, exercise, and health problems can be better managed.
- Systemic change is needed across healthcare systems. In high income countries, systems need better integration of patient care across specialties to ensure efficient use of interventions and decrease poly-pharmacy use. In low to middle income countries, access to healthcare is limited and the training of healthcare workers to meet the needs of aging patients is insufficient.
- Diversity in the needs of older adults from genetic predisposition, environment, and lifestyle factors, make it difficult to create public policy. This is important for policy makers to be aware of as people with the greatest health needs may also be the ones with the fewest resources.
- Stereotypes and misconceptions about older adults are barriers to good policy making. Ageist attitudes limit the way that problems are addressed and solved, if policy makers are unaware.
- Barriers in accessing healthcare for older adults in low to middle income countries are from lack of transportation to provider or inability to pay for care. High income countries report the barrier is from patients who were poorly treated by providers in the past or do not feel sick enough to seek treatment.
- WHO estimates that 40 million people need palliative care every year, 80% live in low to middle income countries and 67% are 60 years or older.
- In many low to middle income countries, long term care is non-existent and the responsibility falls to female relatives, often untrained and unpaid. This impacts the female workforce and is not sustainable with the increase in the aging population in all countries.
- There are five domains to healthy aging which are interconnected with building and maintaining functional ability:
- Build and maintain relationships
- Be mobile
- Learn, grow and make decisions
- Meet their basic needs
9. Priority areas for action include:
- Align health systems to the older populations
- Develop long term care systems
- Ensure everyone can grow old in an age-friendly environment
- Improve measurement, monitoring and improvement
Want to learn more? Read through the report and find your own takeaways. There is a beautiful picture at the beginning of each section with someone from a different country. As a bonus, the report has scattered stories and informational segments about specific cultural practices related to older adults and/or their healthcare. Check it out!