The politics of healthy ageing: myths and realities – European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies


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Economics of healthy and active ageing series
Research from the European Observatory’s Economics of Health and Active Ageing series finds overwhelmingly that population ageing is not a major problem for the sustainability of health care systems or societies. So why is it so often treated as a threat?
This brief draws on a book presenting and synthesizing the international evidence on this question. It first identifies three myths that are widely influential in debates about ageing. The myths are that ageing societies are fiscally unsustainable, that older people prefer better benefits for themselves at the expense of younger people, and that politicians give older people what they want – benefits for older people at the expense of younger generations. If these myths were true, there would indeed be a major crisis in the increasing number of ageing societies. The brief and research discussed in it find that none of these three myths is true.
The brief then reviews evidence on the possibility of ‘win–win’ politics that produce good outcomes for people of all ages. In terms of policy design, this means focusing on life-course policies. Life-course approaches have extensive implications for policy because they suggest ways to make policies that invest for the future at every stage of people’s lives. They also have distinctive politics because they ask for political leaders, interests and advocates to form coalitions among different groups that mutually benefit from the same policies. The brief concludes with lessons on ways to develop political coalitions in support of life-course policies.

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