Ageing and life-course

International Day of Older Persons 2017

1 October 2017 - Universal health coverage and population ageing

WHO/Chris De Bode

The International Day of Older Persons is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the joys and challenges of ageing in today’s world.

The theme for 2017 was “Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society”. Our ability to participate, contribute and exploit our talents is largely dependent on our health. Yet, the World report on ageing and health found that while we are living longer, there is little evidence to suggest that these extra years are spent in good health.

Universal health coverage (UHC) for all, at all ages, is the foundation for achieving the health objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals. Future steps will require investments in universal health coverage to ensure better health outcomes for older people. This is the focus of WHO’s celebration of the International Day of Older Persons 2017.

To ensure the increasing number of older people benefit from universal health coverage we need to rethink what services we deliver and how we deliver them. Today’s health care systems and social care services are better set up to manage acute conditions than meet the needs of older people. As people age, their health needs tend to become more complex and chronic with a general trend towards declining capacity and an increased likelihood of having more than one chronic condition.

To make universal health coverage relevant for older adults, services need to:

  • shift their focus from the management of individual diseases to building and maintaining physical and mental capacities;
  • coordinate across health and social care;
  • extend coverage to meet the needs of all older adults in the poorest communities;
  • ensure sustainability.

To celebrate this important day and advance work towards achieving universal health coverage for all at all ages, the World Health Organization organized a high level event around this topic on 2 October 2017.

This event brought together a broad range of stakeholders including the WHO’s Director-General, high level representatives from countries, United Nations Agencies, civil society, older people and WHO’s staff. The WHO Guidelines on Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) was also released during this day, which provide the basis for the development of a universal health coverage comprehensive care package for older adults, thus contributing towards improving the quality of care.