Meeting the Needs of the Growing Very Old Population: Policy Implications for a Global Challenge
Very old adults are one of the fastest-growing age groups worldwide. Yet they rarely constitute a targeted group for public policies. Drawing on the results of the centenarian studies presented in this special issue, we highlight major challenges that arise from the increase of this population. We outline several promising approaches for policy makers and professionals to develop evidence-based policies and programs that are tailored to the needs of very old adults and their families. We focus our discussion on three key topics essential to life care: the importance of integrated care to meet the complex care needs of the very old; the balance between formal and informal care; and the development of suitable places for living. Besides more specific measures, we propose that policies promoting the social integration of very old adults in their communities would be particularly helpful, as these may benefit not only the very old and their families but also individuals of all ages. We conclude that the development of suitable policies addressing the needs of the very old will benefit from future investigation of cross-cultural similarities and differences in centenarians' characteristics, available services, as well as life conditions they encounter in communities and institutional contexts.