Policy brief 10: how can health systems respond to population ageing?

    Publication year: 2009

    All countries in Europe are experiencing an ageing of their populations, a trend that is projected to continue until at least the middle of the twenty-first century. This process is often regarded as a major cause of upward pressure on health care costs. However, analyses of health care expenditure show that other factors, especially the increasing complexity of technology, carry greater impact. Furthermore, although population ageing will bring some additional costs, these can be reduced by the application of appropriate and well coordinated health and social policies that slow the rate of health decline associated with ageing and thus the amount of health care services required. Health trends among elderly people are complex. In some countries there is less severe disability than in the past, but generally an increase in mild disability and functional impairment can be observed. There is limited ability to treat effectively one of the most disabling common disorders, cognitive decline, and the accumulating burden of disease due to the obesity epidemic. The ability of older people to remain healthy and independent requires the provision of a supportive environment, including well-designed living conditions, access to economic resources, and appropriate health care. Health and social policies will thus need to deliver appropriate systems to respond to the needs of ageing populations. Given the important long-term implications, this remains