“Ageing is an excellent result (for the medical profession) and a great scientific and ethical challenge” (Professor Manuel Barbosa, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon). These figures from the EU, stating that the third age population would double by 2025, were presented at the conference on ageing populations in Lisbon’s Gulbenkian Foundation, following a release of the World Health Organization’s latest figures in the report “Ageing population : health and new social challenges”, in which it was estimated that there will be 1.2 billion third age people in the world in the next quarter of a century. These figures in a way vindicate the increased public expenditure on health and social security programmes. Everyone wants to live as long as possible. However, with the good news comes the bad. The social trends are changing as family dynamics, economies and responsibilities modify. Old people are more are more fragile and more and more isolated. No longer is it taken for granted that the children will look after their parents until they die. The State is seen as having a responsibility to provide for the people who spent their lives contributing towards the benefits of others. The problem is that increased and prolonged medical care is expensive, as is also the cost of providing third age homes and day centres, since there is an exponential factor in public spending once a certain point is reached. Nevertheless, the fact that there are ever more third age voters means also that the political parties will pay an increased attention to them and as electoral promises are supposed to count for something…this vulnerable age group may find champions for its cause. Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, Pravda.Ru, Lisbon

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