Elderly poor of Europe more at risk of illness

London: Elderly poor in Europe at greater risk of ill-health, according to a new report that highlights the inequalities in health care.

Called, “The State of Ageing and Health in Europe” which was compiled by the International Longevity Centre in the UK and the Merck Company Foundation, found that although most Europeans are living longer, ethnic minorities and the poor are at greater risk of ill-health.

The report, found that elderly Europeans who are poor have a 30% to 65% higher risk of almost all chronic diseases, including stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer, the report said.

It also found older women have a greater risk of depression and disability than their male counterparts.

Demographic trends have brought a major shift toward chronic illness in the region, particularly stroke, heart disease, cancer, cataracts, risk of falls and incontinence.

In those over 65, cancer and cardiovascular diseases account for around three-quarters of all deaths in Europe.

However, the report noted that disease and disability do not have to be synonymous with growing old.

It urged European societies to address the issues of ageing in a positive and constructive manner.

Sally Greengross, executive director of the International Longevity Centre-UK, said: “The ageing of the population in Europe is to be celebrated. But if we want this trend to continue, policy makers must factor the needs of an ageing society into the planning, organisation and delivery of services. Equity of access to services is critical.

“From a policy perspective age needs to be considered as part of the health inequalities debate. The impact of socio-economic factors, gender and age must be viewed together as they affect individuals’ chances of achieving the best possible health outcomes into advanced age.”

The report made a number of recommendations to governments including further investment in community services and working closely with voluntary and private sectors.

It argues for better information to be given to the elderly and their families so they are able to negotiate the complexities of health care systems.

The charities also want to see a move away from the “catastrophic and short-sighted view” that older people are a drain on health care resources.