What Healthcare Needs Will Africa’s Ageing Population Have?
Improvements in healthcare and the slow eradication of communicable diseases are changing what Africa looks like. Across the continent, people are living longer. Right now, only five percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa (46 million people) is over the age of 60, according to research by Age International. By 2050 this will be 10%, and by 2100 694 million people in the region will be that age.
What medical problems will this population face?
To a large extent, longevity is going to change healthcare needs across the continent. Already, hypertension in the elderlyhypertension in the elderly is becoming a greater problem, and soon it is going to be joined by ailments that adversely affect elderly populations, like diabetes, cardiovascular problems and fractures and other issues caused by falls.
Although we can only speculate on what effect this will have on Africa’s healthcare needs, there are some definite conclusions we can make now based on current trends.
Traditions vs. Truth
Historically, care for the elderly would be managed by an older person’s extended family. This group would bring together its resources from agricultural work that all members of the family had a part in. Together, this larger family group could support the needs of its ageing matriarchs and patriarchs.
However, increased migration to cities has led to a break-up of these family units, leading to a future of uncertainty and possible poverty for Africa’s future elders who no longer have family units in one area to collectively care for them. Per the African Development Bank Group, 36% of Africa’s current population is in urban areas, and they predict this will be 50% by 2030 and 60% by 2050.
Increase of Home Care
This movement into the cities will lead to a generation of older people forced to be more reliant. There will have to be an increase of hired help, be it at-home care or within medical centers. An increased reliance on technology can also be predicted. Without large traditional family units, Africa’s elderly will have to rely on life-saving devices like medical alert systems to alert carers if they are facing emergencies.
Planning today for tomorrow
Whatever will happen in the future to the continent’s ageing population, one thing is certain; these issues will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Leave it to late, and we risk on pricing an entire generation out of vital medical care. It is up for bodies to start considering these issues, and individuals to start saving for an uncertain future.
By: Sally Perkins (guest writer)