Sharjah: Five years from today and the world — for the first time in human history — will be populated with more elderly people than children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As the number of elderly people rapidly increases every year, WHO has put its focus for World Health Day this year on ageing and health. The UAE joined the celebration and promotion of good health among the elderly by holding a two-day Geriatric Conference yesterday at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Sharjah.
Called “Good Health….Long Life,” the event was attended by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Assistant Undersecretary and Director of Sharjah Medical District, Dr Yousuf Al Serkal, Director of Kuwaiti Hospital and a number of medical practitioners and specialists from across the UAE.
“World Health Day is a special event for all health organisations all over the world. The celebrations come this year as part of the demographic changes all over the world. Throughout the past years, the births and death rates have decreased while the number of elderly people has increased,” Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Policies at the Ministry of Health, said in his speech.
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“In the UAE, the number of elderly people increased three times between 1995 to 2010 and is expected to represent 20 per cent of the population by 2020,” Dr Fikri added.
This increasing number of elderly people, Dr Fikri said, could mean more chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and others. These will lead to more new challenges and financial burdens on health services all over the world.
Hence, the Ministry of Health has put a premium on raising health services for the ageing population according to international practices.
Elderly home care programmes began in Ras Al Khaimah in 2008 followed by Umm Al Quwain and Ajman medical districts in 2010. A total of 168 people were registered as elderly. A team, consisting of one doctor and three nurses, has so far conducted 2,200 home visits.
But the need for elderly home care is rapidly increasing.
“A holistic approach when it comes to geriatric care is needed as caring for the young versus the “old” are two totally different principles,” Dr Salwa Al Suwaidi from Dubai Health Authority said.
The older population may have multiple health problems, very slow recovery, and may have atypical presentation of diseases, Dr Al Suwaidi added.
Throughout the conference, several important topics such as health education, psychological and social issues that elderly people face in their lives and the role of nursing in the elderly field were set to be discussed.
Clinical nutrition and dietetics, age friendly primary health centres, osteoporosis in elderly people and urinary incontinence and dementia among old people will be discussed today.
old outnumber young
In the next five years, adults aged 65 and above will outnumber children below the age of five.
By 2050, these older adults will outnumber children under the age of 14.
The number of people today aged 60 and above has doubled since 1980.
The number of people aged 80 years will almost quadruple to 395 million between now and 2050.
The majority of older people live in low or middle-income countries.
By 2050 this number will have increased to 80 per cent.
— Source: World Health Organisation