Europe is ageing

24 January 2024

Europe is facing a significant demographic challenge as its population steadily ages. Projections indicate that by 2100, 1 in 3 Europeans will be aged 65 or older, emphasizing the need to address the various consequences of this demographic shift. While Europeans are experiencing longer lifespans, the quality of those extended lives and the ability to work for an extended period are becoming major concerns.

A recent webinar hosted by the ILC Europe Network delved into the topic of Healthy Ageing and Prevention in Europe. The discussion focused on comparing European countries based on 6 metrics: life span, health span, work span, income, environmental performance, and happiness, collectively measured by the Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index (HAPI). This index provides insights into the extent to which governments have invested in promoting longevity.

Although Europe ranks 2nd globally for both life span (81.2 years) and health span (70.7 years), the considerable gap between these figures, approximately 10.5 years spent in poor health, underscores the urgent need to improve healthy life expectancy. Poor health is limiting Europeans’ ability to lead active and high-quality lives, with distinct regional inequalities exacerbating the issue.

Regional disparities are evident between Eastern and Western European countries regarding healthy life expectancy. Sweden, ranking 4th globally, outperforms Bulgaria, which is placed 56th. Swedes can expect to live 5.6 more years in good health than Bulgarians and work an average of 3.9 more years. Life expectancy is notably lower in Eastern Europe compared to Western Europe, reflecting inadequate investments in health systems and preventive measures.

Examples of good practices exist across Europe that can be shared and adopted continent-wide. For instance, in the Czech Republic, intergenerational programs, such as the “Grandmas and Grandpa fairy tale reading club,” foster connections between older adults and young children, promoting social interaction and active participation in wider society.

While fundamental issues persist, positive shifts in attitudes toward ageing are noticeable. In France, older adults increasingly recognize the importance of “ageing well.” The expectation of ageing well has grown substantially in recent years, with 60% considering it “Very important” in 2023, up from 39% in 2018. This evolving perspective suggests a growing awareness among older European adults regarding the need to maintain good health and well-being as they age.

Europe’s aging population underscores the critical importance of preventive measures and promoting healthy ageing.

Now it is time for action!

Source: International Longevity Centre

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