Reconceptualising ‘Old Age’ for Better Regional Health Policy in Europe

Stuart Gietel-Basten , The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Sergei Scherbov, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU) and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

In classical measures of population ageing, 60 or 65 is taken to be the ‘boundary’ to old age. However, various studies have argued that this ‘fixed’ boundary to ‘old age’ which is based upon ‘chronological age’ can be misleading. Rather than measuring age ‘chronologically’ (i.e. from birth), age could be better measured ‘prospectively’, as in how many years of remaining life expectancy a person has. We calculate an alternative measure of ageing for European NUTS-2 regions based upon fixing the ‘boundary’ to old age at the point in which the population has a remaining life expectancy of 15 years [RLE=15]. The age at which RLE=15 is calculated for all NUTS-2 regions of the EU28, candidate countries, Switzerland and Norway using life tables provided by Eurostat. Rather than a ‘fixed boundary’ to old age at 65 across Europe, our alternative ‘threshold’ reveals a wide heterogeneity both between and within countries. Across the EU28, the male old-age threshold at the NUTS-2 level ranges from 62.4 to 73.3; while for females the range is between 67.7 and 76.4. Within the UK the male old-age threshold ranges from 67.3 to 73.1. Other regional patterns are discussed and explored. We provide an alternative conceptual framework for the definition of population ageing. Applied to European regions, they present a more rational and realistic view of ageing which, in turn, can inform better policy making. They also demonstrate the extent to which mortality (and health) inequalities prevail across the regions of Europe.

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 Presented in Session 51. Policies for Ageing Populations