Ageing and health in focus in 2012

Malin Bring

The population is ageing rapidly in the WHO European Region, and life expectancy is rising. The median age is already the highest in the world, and the proportion of people aged 65 and older is forecast almost to double between 2010 and 2050 (see figure).

Life expectancy in some western European countries has already reached some of the highest levels in the world, and the average age of the population and the ratio of dependent elderly people in some eastern countries are expected to increase very fast.

Despite overall improvement in health in the Region, large differences between and within countries remain, and too many people experience poor health, social isolation and poverty in later life. WHO/Europe works with Member States to promote good health throughout the life-course, and to ensure that all people, including older people, have access to affordable, high-quality health and social services.

World Health Day 2012 focuses on ageing and health. Throughout the year, WHO/Europe is celebrating older people’s invaluable contributions to societies and economies, and spotlighting age-related health issues. These include:

  • preventing falls;
  • promoting physical activity;
  • promoting vaccination and preventing infectious diseases in health-care settings;
  • strengthening health systems for ageing populations; and
  • building capacity for home care.

WHO is working in partnership with the European Union, which has designated 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.

2012 is also the tenth birthday of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. A regional review will appraise progress in societies’ perceptions of, interaction with and care for their older citizens since the Plan was adopted.

At the heart of WHO/Europe activities in 2012 will be a European strategy on healthy ageing, to be discussed by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in September.