October 8, 2012
“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” ~Harold Coffin
Did you know that 2012 is the European year of Active and Healthy Ageing and the Solidarity between Generations? If I had made a research among the readers of my blog, not so many would have answered the question correctly (including myself).
Some say that Europe has urgent problems to be solved right here right now: the euro crisis, the large amount of state debts, the danger/reality of the two-speed Europe, the democratic deficit, the reform of the institutions, and so on.
Nonetheless, I simply do not believe that this is the truth.
Of course, I do not want to belittle the seriousness of those existing problems. They exist indeed and I admit that they are valid questions to be answered. However, from a long term perspective they might be not the most serious ones. Shall I argue for it?
Here we go: what do you think, will the euro crisis be solved in 75 years? In one way or another, certainly. And the ageing population and the sustainability of pension systems? Or the climate change? The long term public health conditions of our societies? From that perspective, it is not obvious at all that the ageing population is bigger problem or the euro crisis.
Ageing – as the Non-Communicable Diseases – are the silent killers of our modern societies. Let’s make 3 basic statements to underpine it:
1. Ageing mainly concerns not the old population but the young, active people. Active people (roughly say, people between 20-65) create the financial resources to finance our pension and social systems. In 40 years, these people will be retired and due to the current tendencies, it is far from clear whether the upcoming generation will be able to finance their own elder lifetime.
2. Healthy ageing starts before the birth. Our health conditions are determined not only by genetics but also by the lifestyle. Our lifestyle is as much important as our parents’/grandparents’ way of life. In other words, our healthy choices (drug, alcohol, tobacco consumption) harm not only ourselves but also our descendants’ health. What a responsibility to bear! This is another form of solidarity between generations.
3. Health literacy is a fundamental Human Right. Every human has the right to make healthy choices. However, our choices are far from free: poverty, low awaireness, lack of clear information, social exclusion are likely to hinder us to decide which type of food/drink do we consume. Every citizens should be in the position of making the right choice. Not surprisingly, healthy people became happier in their elder period, they consume less pharmaceuticals and use less primary healthcare services therefore they save valuable money for the state – in a long term.
What is my diagnosis?
Our societies are focusing on short-term happenings. From the moment of their election, politicans keep carefully in mind the date of the next election days – which is most probably in 4-5 years time maximum. The mainstraim media is as sensation-hunter as it always was. Researches, impact assessments and proven health and financial benefits in a lifetime seem not to be valuable/interesting enough from that perspective.
Having said that, it is more than clear for me, that the real issues to be dealt with are conceptual, long term challenges such as ageing (or climate change) rather than short term financial threats. As regards the euro crisis we know at least in principle the answers: austerity, economic growth, reducing debt. For ageing, I am not sure, if the philosophers’ stone is in our pocket.
I remain at your disposal.
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