01 Dec 2003

Bio-Demographic Aspects of Population Ageing

Namkee Ahn / Ricard Genova / José A. Herce / Joaquin Pereira

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Ageing affects individuals and nations everywhere. But a precise definition of what ageing is cannot be provided easily with regard to health aspects, social conventions and lifestyles that are intertwined with the ageing process. As a first step, the ENEPRI AGIR project has attempted to describe this process in EU countries by observing as many dimensions as possible related to it. This summarises and compares the demographic experience of ten EU countries since the mid-20th century on the basis of the detailed data gathered within the project. With regard to demography, the report focusses on population dynamics as defined by births and mortalities. It also deals in more detail with survival and longevity, as experienced in Europe in the last half century, to ascertain whether an increase in the absolute limit to human life or, rather, the fact that more and more people reach extreme ages is what drives the current population ageing process. Two other phenomena receive attention in the report: the fact that typical life-courses in Western countries are witnessing seemingly contradictory developments concerning, for instance, life duration and early retirement or other lifecycle landmarks; and the issue of how healthy or disability-free people live the extra years as life expectancy increases. The report is organised into sections on demography, life-courses and morbidity. A final section tries to tentatively answer three relevant questions raised by merely putting together part of the data collected from separate sources: What does living longer mean? Is living longer and working less mutually compatible? Does living longer mean living better? It turns out, ironically, that how define ageing is defined depends on the answers given to these questions.