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Home | Key TopicsHealth of the Elderly

Health of the Elderly

As in other Western industrial nations, the birth rate is also falling in Germany. At the same time, the average life expectancy is rising. This demographic change is a challenge both for the social and health systems and for the increasingly ageing people themselves. The phase of growing old and being old should be experienced in a good state of health for as long as possible, so that elderly people can live independently and actively participate in social life.

Against this backdrop, the subject of "health promotion and prevention for the elderly" is becoming increasingly important. Attention was drawn to substantial, and hitherto insufficiently exploited, prevention potentials in the second half of life by, for example, the Advisory Council for Concerted Action in Healthcare (Report 2000/2001) and the Federal Government’s Third National Report on the Elderly.

Various players in the social and health sectors already offer numerous approaches and measures. They aim to improve the state of health and the quality of life of elderly people. However, these offerings are not available everywhere, and the measures are insufficiently coordinated. There are likewise deficits in terms of the transparency of the offers/offer structures and their quality, both for users and for professionals working in this field.

The Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) held an expert workshop on "Healthy Age" in March 2005. The expert papers are documented and available for downloading. You can find the workshop documentation here (PDF file, in German).

Key prerequisites for the development and successful implementation of prevention and health promotion measures for healthy old age were named by the experts at the 2005 workshop:

  • Integration of the measures in an overall strategy, i.e. there is a need to develop a national health target "Healthy Age(ing)", with prioritisation of individual goals,
  • Precise definition and identification of target subgroups and particularly needy groups,
  • Analysis of the access channels (institutions, associations, occupational groups) via which these target groups can best be reached, and of which available resources can be used for health promotion and prevention.

The award-winners of the 2nd German Prevention Prize "Healthy in the Second Half of Life" (www.deutscher-praeventionspreis.de), which was jointly organised by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation, the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) in 2005, demonstrated in exemplary fashion that there are already high-quality approaches in health promotion and prevention for this target group.

In its current projects, BZgA is pursuing the goal of identifying suitable access channels for reaching people of middle to old age, and increasingly networking existing activities and players.
In late 2006, to support the transfer of "good practice models" to the municipal level and get an overview of what the forms of access to elderly people look like at the municipal level, BZgA commissioned the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu) to conduct a representative survey among municipalities and rural districts to document the actual status of health promotion and prevention at the municipal level. Particular consideration was given to the subjects of exercise/mobility and the target group of socially disadvantaged/educationally deprived elderly people.

The study results were published in the BZgA specialist booklet series "Research and Practice of Health Promotion" under the title "Seniorenbezogene Gesundheitsförderung und Prävention auf kommunaler Ebene - eine Bestandsaufnahme” (Health Promotion and Prevention for Senior Citizens at the Municipal Level - A Review). The booklet (in German language only) can be ordered and/or downloaded here.
The "Ageing Healthily" Working Group of the German Forum for Prevention and Health Promotion has elaborated recommendations for "Prevention Targets for the Second Half of Life". BZgA supported this target-defining process. Following the merger of the German Forum and the Federal Association for Health Promotion and Prevention, the prevention targets are to be further developed and implemented under the umbrella of the Federal Association for Prevention and Health Promotion (www.bvpraevention.de). Again, BZgA will participate in this work.

Against the backdrop of demographic developments, health promotion for women of middle age is becoming increasingly important in both quantitative and qualitative terms. BZgA will therefore continue to expand the module "Health Promotion for Women of Middle Age - Ageing Healthily" in the framework of the Internet portal for women’s health and health promotion (www.frauengesundheitsportal.de). This is intended to make a direct contribution to advancing specific concerns in the field of healthcare and health promotion for women in the second half of life. Exercise and sport is one of the focal topics.

A cooperation project of the Healthy Cities Network (www.gesunde-staedte-netzwerk.hosting-kunde.de) and the BZgA is currently elaborating a transferable municipal programme for health promotion and prevention in old age. Exemplary working aids for municipal players on the subject of fall prevention/mobility promotion were developed in Hamburg (Office for Social Affairs, Family, Health and Consumer Protection) in the first project phase in 2008.

Internet Offerings

The website of the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) contains health-related information on the subject of ageing healthily: www.bmg.bund.de and the brochure "Ageing Healthily" for ordering and downloading.

The portal at www.erfahrung-ist-zukunft.de provides comprehensive information on a variety of subjects, including demography, occupation in old age, and ageing healthily.

The website of the Federal Association for Prevention and Health Promotion can be found at www.bvpraevention.de and contains specialist information and the latest updates on "Healthy Age(ing)".

The Internet offering of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) provides extensive information on various aspects that are of interest to older people above and beyond the health sector: www.bmfsfj.bund.de/Politikbereiche/aeltere-menschen.html.

The EuroHealthNet Internet offering refers to the "Healthy Ageing" project financed by the European Union. The available information is in English: www.eurohealthnet.eu/content/view/15/28/.
On its women’s health portal, BZgA offers information on healthy ageing for the target group of middle-aged women: www.frauengesundheitsportal.de.

The BZgA database containing some 1,200 projects on "Health Promotion for the Socially Disadvantaged" permits nationwide searching for projects and measures for different age groups (senior citizens over the age of 60): www.gesundheitliche-chancengleichheit.de.

Booklet 10 "Health in Old Age" in the "Federal Health Reporting" series can be downloaded at www.rki.de.

"Healthy in the Second Half of Life" was the subject for the 2005 German Prevention Prize. Information on the nominated projects and the award-winners selected by the jury can be found at www.deutscher-praeventionspreis.de, where you can also download a brochure about the award-winners.