"With rising life expectancy coupled with declining fertility rates, the world is grappling with a population that is gradually ageing. Countries, especially developed ones, are experiencing rapid shifts towards an older demographic profile. Population ageing is not new. Beginning in the late nineteenth centuries, such demographic transitions had already begun to occur. In recent years however, global recognition of this phenomenon has led to a new trend– the concept of ‘healthy ageing’.
As healthy ageing gains in popularity as a buzzword, what exactly is it? Why is healthy ageing important?
The term healthy ageing is used interchangeably with other synonyms, such as active ageing, positive ageing, successful ageing, and productive ageing. In the 2015 World Report on Ageing and Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age” . Healthy ageing encompasses more than just physical and mental health, but also includes maintaining the functional ability to enable active, productive, and independent life at older ages".
As people age, the decline in individual health and well-being can range from age-related sensory decline, mobility, and cognitive decline, to the emergence of chronic diseases including cardiovascular and diabetes. Healthy ageing involves the maintenance of well-being through awareness and prevention of these age-related diseases. Besides personal health, the importance of healthy ageing extends into wider benefits of sustainable healthcare, which is the delivery of high-quality care with the simultaneous achievement of financial, social and environmental outcomes. The burden of chronic diseases which increases with an ageing population takes a toll on healthcare systems and challenges national infrastructure. Certainly, healthy ageing initiatives are levers that can be activated to relieve healthcare systems on a societal level. For instance, two studies reported that the community gathering program for healthy ageing in more than 1500 municipalities in Japan was associated with a halved incidence in longterm health care needs and one-third reduction in the risk of dementia ."