The World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling for urgent action to ensure that, at a time when the world’s population is ageing rapidly, people reach old age in the best possible health. This was the key message for World Health Day (April 7 2012).
“The main health challenges for older people everywhere are noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. The risk of developing all noncommunicable diseases can be significantly reduced by adopting healthy behaviours, such as being physically active, eating a healthy diet, avoiding the harmful use of alcohol and not smoking or using tobacco products. The earlier people adopt these behaviours, the better their chance of enjoying a healthy old age. Healthy lifestyles from the very beginning of life is key to a healthy and active old age,” says Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and the Life-course at WHO.
WHO has outlined four key actions that governments and societies can take now to strengthen healthy and active ageing.
- Promote good health and healthy behaviours at all ages to prevent or delay the development of chronic diseases.
- Minimize the consequences of chronic disease through early detection and quality care (primary, long-term and palliative care).
- Create physical and social environments that foster the health and participation of older people.
- "Reinvent ageing" – changing social attitudes to build a society in which older people are respected and valued.
“When a 100-year-old man finishes a marathon, as happened last year, we have to rethink conventional definitions of what it means to be ‘old’,” says Dr Chan Director General WHO “Past stereotypes developed in past centuries no longer hold.”