By 2020, there will be more elderly people than children worldwide,
according to the National Institute on Aging, part of the National
Institutes of Health.
The greying of populations worldwide raises key questions: Will aging
be accompanied by a longer period of good health, sustained mobility, and extended
periods of social engagement? Or will it be mean more illness, disability and
If it is to be the former scenario, we need to discover cost-effective
ways to provide clinical and care services for the elderly in countries at
different stages of economic development and with varying resources.
People today have fewer children, are less likely to be married and
are less likely to live with older generations—and this is increasingly true in
countries around the world. With declining support from families, we will need
better services and tools to ensure the well-being of the elderly.
There is a great opportunity to use education and preventive care to keep
older people healthy longer, delaying or avoiding disability and dependence.
It is nearly inevitable, however, that the elderly will lose their ability
to live independently because of limited mobility, frailty or other declines in
physical or cognitive functioning. Many will require some form of long-term care.
In developed countries, acute care and institutional long-term care services
are widely available, including home care, community care and assisted living—although,
for some, the associated costs can be prohibitively expensive.
In less developed countries, however, there just isn’t the same level
of established and affordable care available for the elderly. A common solution
is for the closest family member to withdraw from employment or school to care
for an older relative, but with smaller families and a shift to urban centers,
this also becomes less probable.
Prediction: Given the increases in life expectancy
and the sheer numeric growth of older populations, we will see an increased
demand to improve or create affordable, in-home care options for aging
populations in both developed and developing countries now and in the decades