“Population ageing is the most significant emerging demographic phenomenon in the world today. In 1950, the world population aged 60 years and above was 205 million (8.2% of the population) which increased to 606 million (10% of the population) in 2000. By 2050, the proportion of older persons 60 years and above is projected to rise to 21.1%, which will be two billion in number. Asia has the largest number of world’s elderly (53%), followed by Europe (25%),” said Rajeev Shukla, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning, government of India.
He was speaking at the second International Conference on Geriology, Geriatrics Medicine and Rehabilitation - “Healthy Ageing In The Changing World - 2013” held on Sept 30 in Bangalore. The minister further said that given the rate of population ageing that developing countries like India are experiencing, there is a need to focus on ageing issues and to take effective measures for improvement in the quality of life of elderly in general and elderly women in particular. The special feature of the elderly population in India is that the percentage of ageing population is more in the rural areas, thus making service delivery a challenge. Also, the number of elders above the age of 80 is very large and is increasing. More complicating is the fact that a large percentage of our elderly are in the Below Poverty Line category.
Ageing is inevitable and unavoidable. The current and projected growth of older people over the coming decades is widely acknowledged as an issue that will have significant health, economic and policy implications at a global level. The conference deliberated on the issues and a broad range of clinical topics including the latest information on diagnosis, management and treatment for common problems in the ageing population. The conference provided an opportunity for participants to hear eminent doctors, scientists and health professionals discuss, analyze and draw conclusions on various aspects and impacts of ageing and issues that plague the elderly people.
Dr Anoop Amarnath, director- Geriatrics, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore said "In the last century, life expectancy has increased dramatically. The number of elderly is rising all over the world, including India. The population of elderly persons in our country has increased exponentially from 77 million at the beginning of last century to around 100 million now, forming 9% of total population of the country. Thus, the country has become a ‘graying nation.’
The ageing population is at a heightened risk of contracting lung infections given their declining immune system combined with co-morbid ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. The other major issue with lung infections as with other diseases in the elderly is the varied nature of their manifestation. Although classically they present as cough, fever, and breathlessness, in the elderly they may manifest as confusion, giddiness, drowsiness and some even present to the hospital with sudden loss of consciousness. It is important to have a high index of suspicion, carry out appropriate investigations and treat aggressively.
Apart from emotional trauma, the financial aspects of hospitalisation during the disease –episodes are considerable and can take toll on patients and their families. Dr Amarnath suggested that it is important for patients and their families to take preventive steps.
Dr V. P. Rao, chairman, iBrain Life Sciences UK said “This pressure of increasing numbers of elderly will intensify in the next 50 years. In 2050, 82% of the world’s elderly will be in developing regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean while only 16% of them will reside in the developed regions of Europe and North America. Population ageing is therefore rapidly emerging as the problem of developing countries. Ageing was not only an Asian trend up until 2000, but it is going to continue to dominate Asia in the next century as well. Old age presents its special and unique problems but these have been aggravated due to the unprecedented speed of socioeconomic transformation leading to a number of changes in different aspects of living conditions”.
Former Chief Justice of India, Justice Dr M N Venkatachalaiah, Dr Kakarla Subba Rao, Prof of Radiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, USA, BNV Subramanya, Educationist and Philanthropist were felicitated on the occasion.
On the occasion, Ian Felton, British Deputy High Commissioner, Bangalore opened the Indo British Geriatrics Council plaque which symbolizes the coming together of two large nations with a mission to provide quality life and improve the well being of elderly.
The International Day of Older Persons is observed on October 1, each year across the world. To mark the occasion, a free health screening program for the geriatric participants was also conducted at the venue.