We have seen an exponential increase in the number of elderly in proportion to the total population over the past decades. However, people aged 65 and over are not as healthy in old age as projected considering our prosperity, according to recent findings of an international study done by BDO in cooperation with the OECD.
Additionally, elderly and healthcare costs are continuously increasing especially due to an international increase in comorbidity (two or more illnesses are present in the same person simultaneously) among those aged 65 and over, placing a heavy social and economic burden on future generations.
Average medical expenses for a person aged 85 and over amount to over AUD$79,200 per year (BDO); an alarming amount considering that this group is expected to exceed 25% by 2050 worldwide.
Furthermore, due to high educational requirements, the demand for health care professionals far outstrips the supply. What’s more is, many lower-skilled health care professionals were made redundant in the last years, due to unnecessarily high requirements.
Analysing national differences in their approach to aged care revealed extraordinary insights in BDO’s recent international study.
Even though all examined countries were faced with tremendous demographic challenges, the study found that not only differences in health care models and funding seemed to impact the health of the elderly, but lifestyle and habits too. In Norway, for example, people are healthier for a significantly longer period of time due to an outdoor lifestyle, a ‘culture of caring’, with families taking care of each other and the elderly taking an active and meaningful part in society
Furthermore, smokers made up only 4% of the population, whereas in Germany, where elderly (on average) only have 8 healthy years over 65, 20% of the population smoked.
A different approach to evaluating return on investment (ROI) in the Netherlands is showing positive results. The country seeks to shift their focus away from the disabilities of patients and further towards their abilities.
BDO concluded that current healthcare systems focus on curing the sick rather than preventing sickness and does not deal with the root of the problem.
To achieve a more affordable, more effective and sustainable aged care system we need to:
- focus on innovation, prevention and rehabilitation;
- target funding to boost innovation;
- lower educational barriers for health care professionals;
- develop technical innovations;
- encourage and support big-scale lifestyle changes;
- invest in methods, solutions and processes that ensure people age differently;
- seeking greater dialogue with the elderly to identify areas of improvement;
- evaluate ROI;
- acknowledge lack of difference between private and public healthcare systems; and
- give the elderly a place and purpose in our society.