World Health Day 2012 – Ageing and Health

Invitation to WKC forum, 7 April 2012

World Health Day – Global

© Unlisted Images /

Every year, World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948. World Health Day is a global campaign, inviting everyone – from global leaders to the public in all countries – to focus on a single health challenge with global impact. The theme changes each year.

"Good health adds life to years"

The topic of World Health Day in 2012 is Ageing and Health with the theme "Good health adds life to years". This year’s topic is particularly relevant to Japan as it has the world’s largest proportion of citizens over the age of 65. The focus is how good health throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities.

Key facts

  • The number of people today aged 60 and over has doubled since 1980.
  • The number of people aged 80 years will almost quadruple to 395 million between now and 2050.
  • Within the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5.
  • By 2050, these older adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14.
  • The majority of older people live in low- or middle-income countries. By 2050, this number will have increased to 80%.

Demographic changes are accompanied by new challenges

  • Even in poor countries, most older people die of noncommunicable diseases.
  • The number of people living with disability is increasing due to population ageing and because of the greater risk of chronic health problems in older age.
  • Globally, many older people are at risk of maltreatment.
  • The need for long-term care is rising.
  • Worldwide, there will be a dramatic increase in the number of people with dementias such as Alzheimer's disease, as people live longer.
  • In emergency situations, older people can be especially vulnerable.

Fighting stereotypes

In many traditional societies, older people are respected as "elders". However, in other societies, older women and men may be less respected. The marginalization can be structural or informal, such as older people being viewed as less energetic and less valuable to a potential employer. These attitudes are examples of "ageism" – the stereotyping of, and discrimination against, individuals or groups because of their age. These stereotypes can prevent older men and women from fully participating in social, political, economic, cultural, spiritual, civic and other activities.

Key messages

  • WHO promotes a healthy lifestyle across the life-course to save lives, protect health and alleviate disability and pain in older age.
  • Age-friendly environments and early detection of disease as well as prevention and care improve the wellbeing of older people.
  • Population ageing will hamper the achievement of socioeconomic and human development goals if action is not taken today.
  • Older people are a valuable resource for their societies and should feel valued.
  • Good health throughout life helps us make the most of the positive aspects of ageing.
  • Societies who take care of their older populations, and support their active participation in daily life, will be better prepared to cope with the changing world.

Calls to action

Good health in older age can be achieved by:

  • Promoting health across the life-course.
  • Creating age-friendly environments that foster the health and participation of older people.
  • Providing access to basic primary health care, long-term care and palliative care.
  • Acknowledging the value of older people and help them participate fully in family and community life.

World Health Day Multimedia

We asked people in Kobe: "What are you doing to have a healthy old age?"