World health report

Executive summary

Older people

In 1979 the World Health Assembly adopted its first resolution specifically targeted to health care of older people, that led to the establishment of a global programme. WHO has organized scientific meetings on ageing-related issues such as nutritional status, cardiovascular diseases, mental health, prevention of respiratory infections, family life and support, prevention of accidents, and health promotion. Published in 1984, The uses of epidemiology in the study of the elderly people stimulated new approaches to research on ageing. Activities from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s were focused on determinants of healthy ageing, osteoporosis and age-associated dementias. In 1994, the programme was reoriented towards "ageing and health".

The WHO programme deals with both old age and ageing. It emphasises health promotion, with a focus on healthy ageing, or ageing well. It takes account of gender differences evident in both health and ways of living, and the cultural settings in which individuals' age determine their health in older age. It is concerned also with strategies to maintain cohesion between generations; and the many ethical issues of population ageing.