Living longer – staying healthy, 1 October: International Day of Older Persons

"Increasing life expectancy in Europe is a tremendous achievement and we need to match adding years to life with improved quality of life. Policy-makers all over our Region can support this development by investing in a broad range of policies that promote healthy and active ageing." Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe

The proportion of people aged 60 and over is forecast to almost double between 2020 and 2050, and no age group will grow faster than those aged 60 and over. Enabling a greater number of people to stay fit and healthy has become key to the future sustainability of health and social policies in Europe.

At the Regional Committee Meeting of the WHO European Region, Member States adopted the Strategy and action plan on healthy ageing in Europe, 2012-2020. This strategy focuses on the key policy areas which support men and women to age healthily and to remain active and independent, contributing to their families and communities:

  • Healthy ageing over the life-course – noncommunicable diseases account for the bulk of loss of healthy life years for people aged 60 and over. An individual’s health and level of activity on older age depend on his or her living circumstances and action over a whole life-span, so healthy and active living throughout the life-course is broadly agreed to be the key to further health gains at higher ages.
  • Creating supportive environments for older people – supportive, age-friendly environments make it easier to be an active elderly citizen and maintain social contacts. This includes areas such as access to public transportation, recreational areas, community services, home care and the active participation including volunteering of seniors and their organizations.
  • Making health and long-term care systems fit for ageing populations and addressing gaps in evidence and research – how can the different levels of health and social care be better coordinated and provide better services for people with multiple chronic conditions and with functional limitations? The level of cost-sharing of the health bill is too high for many older people in Europe and public spending on long-term care varies enormously among countries. The evidence indicates that many people increasingly expect better access to high-quality health and social services, including public support for the  informal care provided by family, friends and other volunteers.

The WHO Regional Office works with a broad range of partners and supports governments at various levels to implement policies for active and healthy living of our ageing populations in Europe.