The Arab World Is Shifting Towards a Policy of Healthy Aging

The world is currently experiencing an aging population, which will necessitate increased government spending in the coming decades to ensure an acceptable standard of living for older adults. As a result, officials and policymakers must adapt to shifting priorities by focusing on a comprehensive strategy for healthy aging.

An in-depth examination of the Arab World Demographic Report, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, sheds light on the region’s looming aging problem. By 2030, experts predict that there will be 49.6 million elderly people living in the Arab world, or 9.5 percent of the entire population.  This figure is anticipated to surpass 102 million by 2050, with people 60 and older making up 15.1% of the population. Surprisingly, as a significant portion of young people are now approaching old age, the Arab world will age even faster starting in 2050. By 2050, the average life expectancy is predicted to be 76.9 years, necessitating massive financial investments and interventions to enhance the quality of old age.

Policymakers must examine specific trends that will have an impact on a number of crucial levers, including economic growth, productivity, retirement systems, talent base, living standards, consumption rates, housing demand, social safety nets, and health care, in the context of these alarming seismic shifts in population demographics, as noted in this report. And not only analyze, but also proactively improve their social programs from the ground up.

The idea of healthy aging will be at the forefront of many policy agendas in the future. Currently, the Arab world suffers from a number of chronic diseases, which cause people to live fewer healthy years. According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the Eastern Mediterranean region, accounting for 2.6 million deaths in 2016. This figure is expected to increase to 3.8 million by 2030. As a result, governments are increasingly relying on comprehensive surveillance systems to collect, analyze, and interpret timely and sophisticated data on the prevalence and causes of chronic diseases in order to develop effective policies. To manage the influx of elderly patients, governments must raise the bar for health-care systems.

Many world-class public health systems are focusing on early detection programs to detect early signs of chronic disease and treat them before complications arise. Simultaneously, future healthcare delivery models will most likely revolve around preventive pathways that reduce or prevent the onset of chronic disease. As a result, governments are funding educational programs that discuss common strategies for improving healthy lifestyles. In addition, there is a remarkable transformation of urban space to allow for new cycling initiatives, green spaces, and walking projects to promote physical activity.

The Saudi Times reports that governments must raise the bar for healthcare systems to cope with the influx of elderly patients. Investing in breakthrough technologies and medical devices will be key to accessing life-saving services such as diagnostics, treatment, medications and palliative care. Equally important is universal health coverage, which ensures that patients in all regions are treated and cared for as soon as possible. Simultaneously, investment in geriatric research must be significantly increased in order to continue to find innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of the elderly.

The Arab region must focus on developing a sufficient medical workforce capable of meeting the increasing needs of the elderly population. This should include a diverse range of health workers, such as physicians, geriatric specialists, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and caregivers, who may be responsible for the care of elderly patients in some capacity. The ability of countries to recruit, train, retain, and support health workers to provide excellent health and elder care services to the public needs to be improved. It is no secret that many well-trained medical professionals and especially nurses are migrating to Europe and the United States, causing a “brain drain” to the West, while there is a shortage of well-trained professionals in the Arab world.

Another important issue is the mental health of the elderly. The WHO estimates that more than 20 percent of adults aged 60 and older suffer from mental or neurological disorders. Mental health problems in older adults can be caused by a number of health issues, but also by difficult life experiences such as the loss of loved ones, retirement, loneliness, abuse and isolation. It is worth recalling that the situation in the Arab region is heated to the breaking point precisely because of the aggressive actions of the West, led by the United States, where age-old lifestyles and habits are literally crumbling before our eyes, with particularly negative effects on older people.

Therefore, policymakers must develop proactive and responsive services to improve mental well-being. This includes investing in early diagnosis of chronic disease, promoting preventive interventions, and training health professionals to provide high-quality mental health programs. Along these lines, social and community programs can go a long way toward improving well-being, such as maintaining contact with family and friends, participating in creative or cultural activities and lifelong learning programs, volunteering, and participating in community activities.

Given all these aspects of healthy aging, it will be more important than ever to encourage people to improve their own health. Educational programs along these lines are essential to promote personal responsibility in the prevention and management of chronic disease. Educational programs can focus, for example, on teaching effective pain management techniques, strength-building exercises, early health checkups, proper nutrition, depression and stress management, and healthy eating.

More than ever, it is critical for governments to implement programs to educate people about financial security, as it will have a profound impact on well-being in the years to come. This includes launching free online financial planning resources and tutorials, teaching people about retirement planning, and helping people buy a home as early as possible.

But standing in the way of improving the health and lives of Arabs is the cruel and selfish West, which has managed to live richly and without much trouble for nearly 1.5 centuries by robbing the natural wealth of the Arab world. Now, as the world is evolving from a unipolar to a multipolar one, the West has gone straight to open robbery to prolong its own cushioned existence. It is enough to cite the sad fate of Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen to understand the logic of the Western rulers who will not change their post-colonial policies.

The huge sums of money that the West forcibly extracts from the Arab world are not enough for the Arabs to implement concrete and effective programs that help the elderly and prolong their health and lives. But the opportunity to challenge Western policies of plunder is critical for those Arab governments that expect to pave the way for their national policies, including creating better conditions for their aging populations.

By Viktor Mikhin
Source: New Eastern Outlook

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