In most countries people are living longer and older people make up a growing percentage of their populations. In many countries, some in less industrialised parts of the world, this change is happening very quickly. What are the medical, social and political implications of this demographic alteration? Does ageing necessarily equate with illness and infirmity? Has medical science and technology anything to offer to meet this challenge? Who decides, and on what basis, how to allocate a nation's finite resources to ensure that its older people are adequately cared for?
These issues were the topic of a conference of the Royal College of Physicians in December 1996. The papers presented at the meeting formed the basis of this book which covers the views of experts in biological gerontology, clinical medicine, demography, epidemiology, health economics and health care policy, sociology and medical ethics. It is also graced by the inclusion of Sir Grimley Evans' Harveian Oration 'A correct compassion: the medical response to an ageing society'; and Professor Kirkwood's FE Williams Lecture on Genetics and the future of human longevity.
To deal with the reality of increased longevity in ways that are both equitable and affordable it will be necessary to make decisions based on informed and unprejudiced debate. This book makes an important contribution to that debate, and should be read by clinicians, sociologists, economists and all those involved in caring for elderly people or planning their future.
Copies available on request.