"We live in an era defined by global challenges from global warming and global terrorism. None is as certain as global ageing. And none is as likely to have such a large and enduring effect on the shape of world economies and the world order"
Richard Jackson, CSIS Global Ageing Initiative
White House Conference on Ageing: 20 July 2005
According to the United Nations, ageing is one of the most significant social, economic and demographic phenomena of the 21st century.
Many areas of the world are facing an inexorable and often rapid rise in their ageing populations, as fertility levels and birth rates decrease and life expectancy levels soar.
By 2050 it is predicted that there will be 2 billion people over the age of 60; that's 21% of the total world's population. And, in the EU alone, the old-age dependency ratio (the number of people 65+ compared with those aged 15-64) is projected to double, meaning its population will move from having four persons of working age for every elderly citizen to just two 1.
Although this new scenario may bring many opportunities, there is also concern for how current health and social systems will cope. Financing the cohort of UK 'baby boomers' could pose a major problem, as might the shortage of younger people who could provide care.
In response to these challenges, Brunel has formed the Collaborative Research Network in Ageing. Its chief goal is to advance knowledge in the field of ageing and care of older people, with the aim of improving the quality of life and health of older people.
The Network will address two fundamental questions:
- How can we ensure that people age healthily and free of disability?
- For those who become ill and disabled, how can we ensure that interventions and care, transport, and housing are provided effectively, efficiently and in line with the perceived needs and wishes of older people themselves?
These questions raise issues from the cellular level through individual human ageing, to the wider spectrum of social and economic policy, and require a genuinely interdisciplinary response and insight, which the Network aims to provide.
The Network will lead in the development and definition of strategic directions for research in the field of gerontology. It will address the information needs of policy makers and the private sector, and facilitate the transfer of new knowledge for the benefit of the whole population.
For more information see the Brunel Institute for Ageing Studies (BIAS) research centre website
Prof Mary Gilhooly, CRN Director
Tel: +44 (0)1895 268756
1 Can Europe Afford to Grow Old? Giuseppe Carone and Declan Costello, Finance and Development. September 2006, Volume 43, Number 3