Europe is ageing
Europe currently has the highest proportion of older people in the world and is expected to continue this leading position for the next 50 years. Comparable between all Western-European countries the demographic changes are characterized by a progressively declining and low birth rate, greater longevity and increasing female participation in the paid labour market . Recent extrapolations by Eurostat predict that there will be a dramatic increase of the “old old” people above 80 years within the next 15 years, while the proportion of persons within the active age between 15 to 64 years will decrease; ageing also has a remarkable gender specificity since the majority of very old people will be women. Figures in the Green Paper on Demographic Change launched by the Commission (March 2005) show that from now until 2030 the EU will lack 20.8 million (6.8 per cent) people of working age. In 2030 roughly two active people (15-65) will have to take care of one inactive person (65+); and Europe will have 18 million children and young people fewer than today.
It goes without saying that these changes will challenge the European societies on several interrelated dimensions most notably with respect to prosperity and living standards, health provision and care, as well as relations between the generations. It is a challenge for Psychology and especially Geropsychology to provide sound research-based knowledge about the diverse psychological processes underlying human ageing as well as expertise about training, education and interventions that will help to promote quality of living and subjective well-being both at the individual as well as the social level.
In our understanding, Geropsychology can be characterized by the following defining features:
- Geropsychology incorporates a life-span perspective on the ageing process;
- it addresses mental and behavioural processes of ageing, and of older adults, both in research, and in applied fields of psychology.
- it targets both at the improvement and consolidation of quality of life in later adulthood as well as the improvement of professional competence of psychologists in this field.
- it includes assessment, education, intervention, and research in the field of ageing.
Expertise and knowledge of geropsychology will be necessary for all fields of applied psychology since ageing represents a transversal dimensions that is important for many if not all domains of individual functioning. Geropsychology should thus be an integral part of all psychological training throughout Europe. Knowledge in GeroPsychology should be provided for different target groups.
Active Aging: A Global Goal
Guest Editors: Rocío Fernández-Ballesteros, Jean Marie Robine, Alan Walker, and Alex Kalache
Special Issue of GeroPsych - The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry