1. Challenges and opportunities for an ageing population

Kicking off the event, Josep Samitier, of IBEC, highlighted that one in three Europeans will be over 65 by 2060. This figure will mean the ratio of people working to the unemployed will go from 4:1 to 2:1. Another noteworthy fact is that, between 2010 and 2060, total government spending on pensions, healthcare, long-term care and unemployment benefits will rise by more than four percent of the GDP. And, as he stressed, total spending on long-term care will double.

“There are many questions to answer. What is a healthy lifestyle? What is your definition of health? Do we need more technology? Is it better to have more technology? How do you want to age well? To what extent are diagnosis and treatment tied? What is the value of diagnostics on its own?,” he asked.

For Carol Brayne, of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health of the University of Cambridge, the debate starts with the concept of healthy ageing. And this, sometimes, is also known as successful or active ageing.

“A generation shift is occurring in health, with expectations that are always constantly changing within the cohorts. And the evidence is still not particularly well integrated into fields like gerontology, demography, neuropsychiatry and neurology, neuroscience, epidemiology, etc.,” she listed.

This is why, she believes, the role of population-based studies is gaining ground, “as research is being done to see how different disciplines, and their findings, are associated with the population from neutral, non-filtered points of view, ensure representation in evidence and test new and old concepts, including healthy/active/successful/satisfied/full ageing. Plus, they are a test of the true change over time and of how new concepts are incorporated into old ones. And, finally, they provide updated basic knowledge to develop policies and set up services. The controversy focuses on the changes in ageing, the context, future generations and sustainability, among other issues.”

Somnath Chatterji of the WHO reviewed this body’s global strategy: a commitment to monitoring ageing and health on a national and global level to focus research on the implications of public health on ageing. In terms of the impact of disease, we need better strategies to quantify life expectation in the elderly to measure progress.

At the same time, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing has kicked off. This initiative aims to increase healthy life expectancy of EU citizens by two years by 2020. The plan has three focal points: improving health and quality of life, supporting long-term sustainability of healthcare and social systems, and promoting growth and improvement in the industry.

From his point of view, future trends will focus on the environment’s impact on functionality, incorporating additional biomarkers, improving methods for analyzing and measuring, and identifying interventions to change the path of ageing.