Global health ethics

Developing an ethical framework for health ageing: report of a WHO meeting, Tübingen, Germany, 18 March 2017


Publication details

Number of pages: 40
Publication date: 2017
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/HIS/IER/REK/GHE/2017.4



According to the WHO World report on ageing and health , the number of people over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050. This will result in radical societal change. Dr Margaret Chan, the former Director-General of WHO, said, today, most people, even in the poorest countries, are living longer lives. But this is not enough. We need to ensure these extra years are healthy, meaningful and dignified. Achieving this will not just be good for older people, it will be good for society as a whole.

This statement summarizes the starting point of the meeting. A global increase in average life expectancy is a major achievement, but the risk and the burden of chronic diseases rise with increasing age (1, p. 39) and can contribute to negative stereotypes and discrimination of older people. It will be crucial to maintain good health throughout the life course and prevent diseases if older people are to engage in meaningful activities. In so far as chronic diseases in advanced age cannot be fully prevented, the health needs of older people must be met, such as in long-term care, to protect their dignity. And, as Dr Chan rightly highlighted, only if the lives of older people are health, meaningful and dignified will society as a whole benefit from their full potential.