Ageing and life-course

Health systems that meet the needs of older people

Old man looking into an optical devise
Judith Escribano/ Age International

As people age, their health needs tend to become more complex with a general trend towards declining capacity and the increased likelihood of having one or more chronic diseases. Health services are often designed to cure acute conditions or symptoms and tend to manage health issues in disconnected and fragmented ways that lack coordination across care providers, settings and time.

Health systems need to be transformed so that they can ensure affordable access to evidence-based medical interventions that respond to the needs of older people and can help prevent care dependency later in life.

Universal Health Coverage and ageing

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is defined by WHO as ensuring that all people and communities receive the quality services they need, and are protected from health threats without financial hardship. Without considering the health and social care needs of the increasing numbers of older people, UHC will be impossible to achieve.

Integrated Care for Older People

As people grow older, their health needs are likely to become more complex and chronic. However, existing health systems are fragmented and lack coordination, which makes it difficult to effectively address these needs. The WHO Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) approach helps key stakeholders in health and social care to understand, design, and implement a person-centred and coordinated model of care.

Clinical Consortium on Healthy Ageing

The WHO Clinical Consortium on Healthy Ageing is a group of global experts that advances research and clinical practice by facilitating data sharing and analyses, supporting evaluation of clinical practice and building capacity of health professionals and clinicians on Healthy Ageing.

What WHO is doing to transform health systems:

WHO has identified three approaches that will better serve the needs of older populations:

  • Develop and ensure access to services that provide older-person-centred and integrated care;
  • Orient systems around intrinsic capacity;
  • Ensure there is a sustainable and appropriately trained health workforce.

To support these approaches WHO:

  • develops and shares evidence-based guidance on how to provide integrated care to older populations, especially those in less resourced settings;
  • provides technical assistance and support to countries to develop evidence-based policies;
  • promotes approaches to improve health workers’ knowledge and competencies on Healthy Ageing.

These actions support efforts to enhance universal health care, address non-communicable diseases, and develop long-term-care systems.