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Preparing the society of the future


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Ana Marta Gonzalez

Director of the Chair Idea of New Longevities ICS, University of Navarra

According to the report presented in 2023 by the Observatorio de la Realidad Social de Navarra, by 2035, one in four people in the Comunidad Foral will be over 65 years old. In turn, those over 85 will go from 3.5% in 2019 to 3.8% in 2035. The forecasts are practically similar in the rest of Spain. In view of these figures, it can be said that this segment of the population that falls into the diffuse category of "the elderly" is not the past but the future. However, are we culturally and socially prepared to face it?

Undoubtedly, from the cultural point of view, we drag inertias in our way of facing this increasingly longer stage of life; prejudices that crystallize in different forms of "ageism" that only critical reflection, informed by the data of the sciences, allows us to deactivate.

In this regard, it should be noted that the mere fact of using such a vague category as "the elderly" hides a wide diversity of situations and needs, which require equally differentiated attention.

For example, 75% of people over the age of 65 are currently in good health and perfectly independent. In fact, many of them would have continued to work well Degree and are actively involved in their family, cultural and social environment, contributing to the wealth of our societies in a wide variety of ways.

In turn, the majority of dependent people, who make up the remaining 25%, live at home -only 5% live in nursing homes-, with different levels of dependency Degrees , which require different types of attention, both from a health and legal point of view. However, projections made in 2021 estimate that the European population in need of long-term care will increase from 30.8 million in 2019 to some 38.1 million in 2050, figures that can also be linked to the forecast increase in social expense due to chronic diseases: from 1.7% of GDP in 2019 to 2.5% in 2050. The European Care Strategy, presented in 2022, seeks to respond to this reality.

Although the prevailing care model in each country conditions the way in which it is dealt with, the growing demand for long-term care is calling for reflection at various levels. Economic and social policies are not the least of these.

Certainly, in light of the above-mentioned figures, it is not surprising that, not only for health reasons, but also for economic reasons, the emphasis is placed on prevention, so that the largest possible issue of people can enjoy healthy and active aging. However, if we were to focus only on this aspect, we would miss a precious opportunity to rethink our social model to make it not only economically, but also humanly sustainable, revaluing this phase of life, recreating spaces and intergenerational links and showing the solidarity of the productive system and the care system.

Indeed, it seems clear that the increase in the demand for care will require adjustments in our economic model ; it is enough to consider that, although the care sector currently employs 6.4 million people - 90% of whom are women - it is expected that by 2030 there will be 7 million work jobs available in this sector. However, these are not easy jobs to fill, as the conditions of work are not attractive, for both economic and social reasons: despite their undoubted human value, these are jobs with little social prestige; a perception that is reinforced by the fact that, in many cases, for both cultural and economic reasons, people continue to resort to informal and non-professionalized care, which, in addition to the risks involved, makes it even more difficult to give care professions social prestige. This is a vicious circle that can only be broken by a global rethinking of our social model that takes into account the way in which, in fact, the entire productive system depends on an efficient care system - and, conversely, the way in which, in fact, the care system depends on the productive system - in order to design public policies that support this mutual dependence for the benefit of the people involved.

Much depends, in fact, on workers living "care-free" while they are at work space, because their family members are well cared for. And, of course, much depends on salaries being sufficient to pay for the care of family members and dependents by well-trained professionals, from both a technical and human point of view. But ensuring this mutual dependence is not possible in the absence of a global revision of our model of development, which would make it humanly sustainable.