Fri | Sep 20, 2019

Tufton: Ageing population has serious policy implications

Published:Thursday | September 12, 2019 | 12:21 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Dr Christopher Tufton
Dr Christopher Tufton

Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will have nearly doubled from 12 to 22 per cent. Even more startling, by next year, the number of people aged 60 and older will outnumber children younger than five years old.

It is a worrying trend with serious implications for the developing world, including Jamaica and the Caribbean, says Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

Addressing Tuesday’s media launch of the Caribbean Wellness Day 2019 under theme: ‘Healthy Ageing Starts Now’, Tufton said countries such as Jamaica must prepare to stave off any challenges in the healthcare system from an ageing population and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Additionally, Tufton announced that efforts to establish an annual Research for Wellness Fund are far advanced, and that the said fund is to be launched later this September with an initial capitalisation of $50 million.

He noted that the Caribbean Wellness Day will provide the perfect platform from which to address ageing and the fight against NCDs.

In 2011, persons aged 60 and older represented 11.7 per cent of the population, but projections are that by 2050 the number of aged persons 60 and older could rise to approximately 23 per cent.

“This means that Jamaica will have [more] older persons than you will have younger persons. And again, from a policy standpoint, from an individual standpoint, from a community and family standpoint in terms of the future, it has significant implications,” Tufton said.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

He noted that an essential ingredient of that preparedness is public education and awareness, which is why [this] launch of Caribbean Wellness Day 2019 is so important.

NCDs are the leading cause of death for both the total population and the over-60 population. Cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, in particular, are the leading cause of death for both men and women over the age of 60.

The ministry, according to Tufton, is in the process of developing a strategic plan for the care of the elderly. He said more will be said on that topic in coming weeks.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com