A new report by the World Health Organization says governments need to start investing in preventing poor health in old age now as Europe's population ages.
Europe's population is ageing rapidly; next year it's estimated that people older than 65 will outnumber people younger than 15 and habits and attitudes need to be adjusted accordingly.
That's the message of a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, which advocates healthier lifestyles to ensure wellbeing in advanced years. The report says the starting point is better eating, and wants governments to do more to instill better habits.
Stephen Whiting, WHO Europe’s Technical Advisor on Sport and Health says governments need to start investing in preventing poor health in old age now.
He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that healthier people are better able to withstand disease.
“There’s data that shows that physical inactivity, overweight and obesity were a huge risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes and long COVID-19," he said.
"So this is a really opportune time to actually invest in prevention for whether it's future emergencies, future pandemics, climate change-related heat events and emergencies, promoting physical activity and healthy diets to all population groups as well as older adults is a is a win-win, and it's a cost-effective intervention."
Among the recommendations are healthier Mediterranean-style diets which are associated with healthier old age. Staying active and taking regular exercise is also crucial.
The WHO added it's not just individuals who benefit from keeping fit.
“We published a report in collaboration with the OECD earlier this year on the cost of physical inactivity on health systems in the European Union, and we estimated that €8 billion per year could be saved if more people were physically active and meeting the WHO recommended levels of physical activity," Whiting added.
According to the WHO, healthy people over 65 are recommended to do “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise” for at least two and a half hours each week.
This can be a brisk walk.
Alternatively, for fitter people, it advises 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise such as swimming or jogging.
The organisation says it’s also vital for more elderly people to do muscle strengthening at least two days a week to improve mobility and prevent falls.
It also advises people with chronic diseases to do as much exercise as they are capable of.