Europe is decades ahead of other world regions, the WHO (World Health Organization) has said, when it comes to having an aging population.
Time to act for policy makers!— WHO/Europe (@WHO_Europe) October 11, 2023
An upcoming demographic shift will make older adults an increasingly important social group.
Our 🆕 report highlights 🔑 strategies for healthier ageing ⏩ healthier diets & physical activity.https://t.co/5WhWooym80#HealthyAgeing2023 #BeatNCDs pic.twitter.com/3JsmleuvDZ
By 2024, people older than 65 will outnumber under-15s in Europe. It is a demographic shift that appears to be coming worldwide, but Europe, or “the old continent” as it is being dubbed, has reached the not-so-positive milestone about forty years before the rest of the world is expected to do so – in 2064 – according to Our World in Data Institute.
Socioeconomic and health challenges
Warning of the challenges an aging population engenders, the WHO highlighted the need to ensure people remain active and healthy into old age. It noting that while longevity is usually the sign of a civilised society, being elderly in Europe too often goes hand-in-hand with poor health.
The organization said the figures bring “new social, economic and health challenges, which demand a focus on healthy ageing to mitigate the impact of an ageing population.” Policies to “enable older people to preserve and improve their physical and mental health, independence, social well-being and quality of life” are needed, it said.
Two and a half hours of exercise
Increased opportunities to take part in sporting and cultural activities into older age were among the recommendations made, as well as eating a balanced diet and exercising for at least two and a half hours a week.
Engaging in even higher levels of physical activity can reduce the risk of all-cause mortality by 35 per cent.the WHO
Gold standard advice for people aged 65 & over from our 🆕 report:— WHO/Europe (@WHO_Europe) October 11, 2023
🚶150 minutes of moderate activity/week cuts all-cause mortality risk by 28%
🏃♂️Even more activity means a 35% cut!
Elevate your longevity game! https://t.co/5WhWooym80#HealthyAgeing2023 #PhysicalActivity pic.twitter.com/QzsIGfgssp
Exercises that improve balance, keep people mobile and prevent muscle mass and bone density loss are also seen as key to a healthier older population.
Sedentary European lifestyle
The WHO’s European regional advisor, Dr Kremlin Wickramasinghe, says the sedentary and monotonous nature of many Europeans’ lives needs to be addressed and highlighted it is not just an issue of personal responsibility but an area where “policy-makers, businesses and communities” can make a difference by creating “more opportunities” and making “better investments to make healthy choices easier.”
Ironically though, with fewer citizens of working age and an increasing proportion of older people to look after, one question being asked is: where will the money come from to invest in the strategies called for?
How to increase birthrates?
To reverse the trend altogether either immigration of younger, working age people from outside the continent needs to increase, or people need to have at least 2.1 babies per couple.
Immigration is such a divisive issue that encouraging people to have more children (and limiting reproductive choice) is the preferred solution being tried in countries such as Hungary and Poland. Part of the problem is how to make having a family seem attractive, in a world where anything from the threat of climate change, to low quality housing, to insufficient support for working families, can make the prospect of having a baby seem undesirable.