How the regions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland could prepare for the aging of the society (2011)
For people aged 65 and older, the probability of falling sick with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia increases. As a result of population ageing, the share of people with dementia is growing. In Germany it is just above 1,600 per 100,000 inhabitants already today. Within 30 years time it is expected to double. Austria and Switzerland have younger populations due to a steady flow of immigrants. However, this does not spare them from population ageing and more people with dementia, either. At the same time, fewer and fewer young people are replacing the older generation. This means that in the future there will be fewer people who can take care of people with dementia; fewer children, fewer step-children and fewer professional nursing staff.
There are huge regional differences, however. In its “Dementia Report”, the Berlin Institute for Population and Development presents “dementia maps” for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They illustrate current spreads of the disease (based on data for 2008) as well as projections for the year 2025.
For example, the easternmost region of Germany, located close to the border to the Czech Republic, registers an above-average rate of 2,190 patients per 100,000 inhabitants. According to calculations by the Berlin Institute, this figure could have doubled by 2025. Similar results are found for large parts of East Germany. On the other hand, the regions of Cloppenburg and Vechta in Lower Saxony remain below the average, thanks to comparatively high numbers of births. The same is true for the suburban areas surrounding Munich, where lucrative job prospects attract young people and families.
What is the use of regional dementia scenarios? Decision-makers at the level of municipalities, districts, cantons and regions need these data to plan and prepare for future challenges. Society and politics are facing the greatest tasks where the youths are emigrating, while the remaining elderly are at risk of poverty. In these sparsely populated areas it is difficult to sustain an adequate level of health care. And where municipalities are constrained by budget deficits already today, little financial resources can be made available in the future in order to provide sufficient nursing homes and hire professional staff. This is especially true for East Germany. Yet, also eastern regions in Austria will have to deal with similar restraints, albeit on a smaller scale. Moreover, some rural areas near the Alps are losing people to urban agglomerations and see their populations growing older and older.
How can regions respond to these challenges? Ideas are in no short supply. Arnsberg in North Rhine Westphalia has set up a whole network of public and private services to people with dementia. The “Dementia Report” provides an overview of models and initiatives which show, how municipalities can prepare for population ageing.
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