An Ageing Population Requires New Economic StrategiesBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 06/02/2021 - 14:32
Life expectancy continues to rise in most countries but an aging population could lead to a shrinking economy, declining fertility and a shift in migration flow dynamics, explain experts.
In 2021, the global life expectancy was 72.81 years, a 0.24 percent increase from 2020. In Mexico, life expectancy for those born after 2016 is 76.6 years on average, with 74 years for men and 79.2 years for women. In 2013, life expectancy was 78 years, 73 years in the case of the men and 78 years in the case of women, showing that life expectancy increased by one year during the last decade.
Between 2000 and 2019, life expectancy increased from 66.8 years to 73.4 years, while healthy life expectancy (HALE) increased from 58.3 years to 63.7 years thanks to a decline in mortality. However, the increase in HALE (5.4 years) did not mirror the increase in life expectancy (6.6 years). HALE, explains WHO, measures the years individuals are healthy not their longevity. A shorter HALE might mean the population suffers from diverse ailments in their old age.
HSJ explains that public health practices to strengthen primary care have contributed to lengthening life expectancy in numerous countries. But these successful strategies have created a new challenge: looking after the growing number of seniors. “With the increasing emphasis on health and the progressive lengthening of the average life span, both scientific community and general public have been examining ways to improve well-being and to prevent disease at every stage of life,” explains HSJ. In that sense, more public health efforts are necessary to increase attention for cardiovascular diseases and cancers, the leading causes of death globally. This situation will also cause economies to shift as dealing with an ageing population would mean a shrinking economy, declining fertility and changes to migration flow dynamics, explains The New Economy. Several countries in the EU, for example, are seeing their healthcare expenses climb as their populations become older. “The European commission expects spending on healthcare and pharmaceuticals for age-related diseases to surge. It predicted spending on long-term care systems in the EU would rise by 73 percent to a total of 2.7 percent of GDP by 2070, from 1.6 percent of GDP in 2018.”
In order to provide adequate services for an ageing population, public health systems should develop a detailed plan that includes investing in health systems and infrastructure, creating age-friendly housing and establishing health services that focus on meeting the multidimensional needs of the elderly, explains The New Economy. The paper also suggests the incorporation of assistive technology, or ‘agetech,’ to give seniors greater independence. “The elderly are able to live self-sufficiently for longer with smart devices that automatically dispense medication, technologies that monitor cognitive skills and networking apps that improve social connectivity.”