One of the key issues facing public healthcare is the global trend of an increasingly ageing society which continues to present policy makers and caregivers with formidable healthcare and socio-economic challenges. Ageing is the primary contributor to a broad spectrum of chronic disorders all associated with a lower quality of life in the elderly. In 2019, the Chinese population constituted 18 % of the world population, with 164.5 million Chinese citizens aged 65 and above (65+), and 26 million aged 80 or above (80+). China has become an ageing society, and as it continues to age it will continue to exacerbate the burden borne by current family and public healthcare systems. Major healthcare challenges involved with caring for the elderly in China include the management of chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), physical frailty, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, with emerging challenges such as providing sufficient dental care, combating the rising prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among nursing home communities, providing support for increased incidences of immune diseases, and the growing necessity to provide palliative care for the elderly. At the governmental level, it is necessary to make long-term strategic plans to respond to the pressures of an ageing society, especially to establish a nationwide, affordable, annual health check system to facilitate early diagnosis and provide access to affordable treatments. China has begun work on several activities to address these issues including the recent completion of the of the Ten-year Health-Care Reform project, the implementation of the Healthy China 2030 Action Plan, and the opening of the National Clinical Research Center for Geriatric Disorders. There are also societal challenges, namely the shift from an extended family system in which the younger provide home care for their elderly family members, to the current trend in which young people are increasingly migrating towards major cities for work, increasing reliance on nursing homes to compensate, especially following the outcomes of the ‘one child policy’ and the ‘empty-nest elderly’ phenomenon. At the individual level, it is important to provide avenues for people to seek and improve their own knowledge of health and disease, to encourage them to seek medical check-ups to prevent/manage illness, and to find ways to promote modifiable health-related behaviors (social activity, exercise, healthy diets, reasonable diet supplements) to enable healthier, happier, longer, and more productive lives in the elderly. Finally, at the technological or treatment level, there is a focus on modern technologies to counteract the negative effects of ageing. Researchers are striving to produce drugs that can mimic the effects of ‘exercising more, eating less’, while other anti-ageing molecules from molecular gerontologists could help to improve ‘healthspan’ in the elderly. Machine learning, ‘Big Data’, and other novel technologies can also be used to monitor disease patterns at the population level and may be used to inform policy design in the future. Collectively, synergies across disciplines on policies, geriatric care, drug development, personal awareness, the use of big data, machine learning and personalized medicine will transform China into a country that enables the most for its elderly, maximizing and celebrating their longevity in the coming decades. This is the 2nd edition of the review paper.
A research agenda for ageing in China in the 21st century: focusing on basic and translational research, long-term care, policy and social networks
Ageing Research Reviews