Aging—It’s Something We All Do Differently

Martha Snyder Taggart, BrightFocus Editor, Science Communications
  • Science News
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a major shift in the way society views older persons. Instead of taking the “one-size-fits-all” view that old age is always tied to increased disability, dependency, and costs, it’s time to recognize the diversity of older people, their varying levels of independence, and their contributions, WHO says, and to redefine expenditures that promote healthy aging as “investments” rather than “costs.”

This and more is summed up in the 265-page World Report on Ageing and Health released by WHO in time for International Day of Older Persons (Oct. 1).

It defines “healthy aging” as: “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age."

However, at the moment, we tend to regard older people “as a bucket of individual diseases,” says the lead author John Beard, MD, who directs the WHO Department of Ageing and Life Course. Instead, he believes it’s important for clinicians and policy makers to view older people holistically, assessing not just their medical and economic conditions, but how they're functioning in their communities and lives—“how all their different problems and challenges add up”—and use that as a guide to action.

By 2050, the number of people aged 60 years and older is expected to double, worldwide.