Number of over-60s set to double, says WHO

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The economic contribution of older people far outweighs the cost to society and governments should do more to encourage their participation, WHO says. Photo: WHO/Fid Thompson

The number of over-60 year-olds is set to double by 2050 to two billion, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which wants governments to prepare for what it's calling "radical societal change".

In a new report, WHO says advances in medicine are helping more people to live longer, and that this is also the case in poorer countries.

But it highlights that contrary to some people think, that there's little evidence that these so-called "extra years" of life are spent in better health.

Daniel Johnson has more.

According to the World Health Organization, most people are aware that the world is ageing rapidly.

But what they don't know, perhaps, is that this trend is happening in poorer countries too – and much faster than before.

The finding comes from the WHO's first report on ageing and health, which states that by 2050, the number of people over 60 is expected to double.

That's down largely to advances in medicine; and while it's good news, what the UN agency report shows is that longer lives do not necessarily mean healthier lives.

In other words, WHO says, 70 is not the new 60.

This means that governments must plan to care for more people in poor health in their later years, WHO believes.

But it also wants to see older people encouraged to do things that matter to them.

Here's WHO's Dr John Beard:

"Even in high-income countries which have comprehensive provision of healthcare, long-term care and pensions, economic analysis shows that the economic contribution of older people far outweighs the cost to society."

Adapting to the needs of ageing women is going to be particularly important, WHO believes, since they comprise the majority of older people, and they provide much of the family care for those who can no longer look after themselves.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'14"


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