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Ageing Population As The Global Health Crisis

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I would like to talk about the global economic issues which are caused or can be triggered forth by the aged or the ageing population. Nowadays the social and economic implications of an ageing population are becoming increasingly apparent all over the globe, but especially in industrialized nations. The number of seniors or the savers is increased, demanding and relying on the low or the “normal” proportion of workers – this means fewer working-age people in economy: leading to declining productivity, higher labour costs, delayed business expansion and reduced international competitiveness as lack of working-age persons make it more difficult for economy to fill in-demand occupations and faces adverse consequences. As I already mentioned, ageing population or the increased life expectancy and low birth rates lead to a tremendous increase in Health Care Costs; Health generally declines with more medical attention required such as doctor visits, surgery, physical therapy, hospital stays and prescription medicine: Increased cases of cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular problems. Increase in the dependency ratio, will provide the population ageing with fix retirement age and ageing, not working population, so there will be relatively more people claiming pension benefits and fewer people working and paying taxes. This all lead to increased government spending on health care and pensions: this combination of higher spending commitments and lower tax revenue is a well-known problem for western world and industrialized countries, as well as third world countries. In other words, the amount of money coming into social security will lessen due to fewer contributions from workers and more funds going an ageing retired population. This could create so named black holes in the economies, on both, national and global level.

As mentioned previously, there are various types of problems on the different levels of the society influenced, emerged, connected or developed by the Ageing Population. One of the main problems on the social level of ageing population is stigmatisation and discrimination of the old: different stereotypes for elder, older and oldest members of population on various levels lead to the separation and can exclude the aforementioned parts of the society from it. Working age – concentrating not on the quality of outcomes, but rather biological age of employees. Living alone in older age – is often equated with social isolation or/and family abandonment. Every coin has two sides: greater longevity, expanded social benefits which are used for the person alone, increased home ownership, but meanwhile – living alone, 4 decreased social skills, dependence on others but no or few social or family-care. These are the main daily difficulties of ageing population nowadays.

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Referring to my previous comments, the number of elders and the oldest in the world is increasing, which leads to the different challenges on the national, therefore on the global levels with various perspectives and situations. Thus I would like to define and discuss the various ways throughout can the challenge of ageing population be addressed and possibly managed as well. I think concentrating on the role of elderly and oldest in the global society will help to manage social as well as economic challenges caused forth by ageing population. Ageing population or the increased life expectancy can be seen as a product of successful labour and activities of humanity in terms of improved health, sanitation and development. In the following, I would like to compare the 2 models or the concepts, addressing ageing population and offering to empower the old: the Anti-Aging Industry (AAI) and Critical Gerontology (CG). The Anti-Ageing Industry is mainly based on the individuality and implies that only person can govern life satisfaction through lifestyle choices: such as regimes of activity, diet, exercise and the like. The modern Anti-Ageing-models on other hand pose as a critical counter discourse, bucking the medical establishment to offer consumers a way out of stigmatized dependency and decline. The industry offers empowerment, inviting the old to embrace and extend youth, to avoid feeling passive and powerless. At the same time Critical Gerontology rejects capitalism and individualist approaches and refuses to equate ageing with disease. It also provides a mirror image of anti-ageing, with its focus on empowering the old to become active on their own behalf.

The next concept I find interesting is the model of Successful Ageing by Rowe and Kahn based on three key characteristics or behaviours people should perpetuate as long as possible: low risk of disease and disease-related disabilities, high mental and physical functioning and active engagement with life. It is the combination of all three components that most extensively represent successful ageing. In their original model, Rowe and Kahn (1987) defined successful aging as the avoidance of disease and disability. Defining Successful Ageing as multidimensional and encompassing the avoidance of disease and disability, maintaining high physical and cognitive function and sustained engagement in social and productive activities, the concept by Rowe and Kahn can be seen as the aim or the dream position of Global Health in terms of Ageing, but as Utopia as well: there are some various points of criticism and difficulties following the aforementioned concept such as experiencing ageing differently depending on the culture, economic status and geographic location, 5 defining Successful Ageing as possibility given throughout staying productive and independent – more western, northern concept based on “European” Lifestyle than thinking globally. The concept lets external factors such as financial resources and its effects on ageing, social and environmental aspects surrounding the old slide and makes individuals responsible for their own (not) successful ageing.

Nowadays there are many different successful ageing models, which propose proactive coping as an important additional strategy to cope with ageing population. For example the model of Selective Optimization with Compensation (SOC-model) is one of the leading models in the field, and mainly focuses on how people react to losses and that proactive coping aimed at preventing potential threats to goals may also be valuable strategy. WHO defines the model of Active Ageing as the process and the opportunity for ageing people stay in charge of their own lives and gives chances to contribute to the economy and society. There are also several concepts and models empowering the old – for example the two models of Healthy and Harmonious Ageing which we already discussed in the seminars of Global Health.

I find the concepts very interesting as they can be integrated in everyday life very easily. As we do have only poor evidence of successful work / cooperation of above mentioned models and concepts personally I think, that it should be summarized and concentrated mainly on the individuals and populations globally and not only the concepts and how they work; There are some points, which I think could be helpful to “prevent” and manage the ageing of population globally: use every chance to make population healthier on the first hand and after and only after think about the labour and workforce – it depends on the health and mobility of an ageing population. If people live longer and can remain physically active for longer, the adverse impact will be less. If medical science helps people live longer, but with poor mobility, there will be less chance to work; Immigration could be a potential way to defuse dramatic situation and the impact of an ageing population, as immigration is primarily from people of working age. However, immigration brings its own political challenges, has become unpopular and can define and develop some cultural and national issues. One of the possible solutions to the ageing population on the global and national level could be to increase the retirement age. On the other hand, people with private savings may be able to still retire early; those with low income paid jobs are more likely to have to keep working, meanwhile increased participation rate could give ageing population chance to keep working before and after 65 as much as possible.

I find also the strategy used by Japan very interesting and fully adjustable globally: the Japanese government started to increase the sales tax from 5% to 10% to raise considerable revenue which is expected to compensate for some of the growing health 6 care costs and support children and child bearing as a notion to boost fertility rates. According to the UN, governments should invest in the health of their population so that people can stay active for a longer time. It also suggests that politicians should encourage families to have more than one child. For Example in Georgia every third child in the family is being baptised by Patriarch of all Georgia to motivate families have more children and boost the fertility rate tremendously. Is Ageing Population Global Health crisis and how drastic are the future challenges emerged by it? The population globally continues to undergo a fundamental change in its age structure, with many people having fewer children and living longer lives. As a result the average age globally is increasing. This demographic change will affect the whole globe. The Ageing population presents opportunities to individuals and society as well. But one of the main challenges of 21st century can only be addressed and managed with mutual and cooperative labour, which shape future, the future with growing numbers of people in later life who are happy, healthy, and financially secure.


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