Population ageing is occurring in all countries, regardless of the level of economic development. While the rising burden of chronic diseases and disabilities as a consequence of this demographic transition is well recognized, the increasing prevalence of geriatric syndromes as a public health issue is not as well recognized. Recently the World Health Organization’s World Health and Ageing Report emphasized functional ability as an important outcome for aging populations, highlighting the concept of raising intrinsic capacity throughout the life course. The complementary perspective is the prevention of frailty, which has physical, cognitive, social and psychological dimensions. Therefore, services for older people should encompass medical as well as social components. The need and evolution for a transition in health and social services in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China which has a population with the world’s highest life expectancy, is presented as an example of how one developed economy attempts to meet the challenges of population ageing. There is a need to shift to integrated care in the community instead of specialty dominated hospital care, and to establish regular activities in the community to adopt and maintain a lifestyle that reduces frailty and disability (or promotes intrinsic capacity). A top down approach with financial incentives, together with public education to help drive policy changes, are key drivers of change. It is expected that there will be much heterogeneity between different countries in terms of barriers and facilitators, such that each country needs to document their needs and design appropriate services.
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