The Elderly between the Needs for Care and Active Ageing

2. Ageing of the Italian Population

In ten years (from 1995 to 2005) our country has aged significantly. According to Istat (2005) the elderly counted 11,379,341 units. From Figure 2 one sees how the over 65 population has grown in the various macro areas of the country.

Figure 2: People of 65 years and over by year and geographic spread (absolute values in thousands)
Source: Istat 2006a, 2006b = our elaboration.

At national level the aging index has gone from 16.5% to 19.5%2, the old age index3 from 111,6 to 137,8 and the elderly dependence index from 24 to 29.34 (see Table 1).

In every Italian region an average increase of 3 percentage points has been recorded in the elderly dependence index (see Figures 3 and 4)5

Table 1: Ageing index, Old age and elderly dependence by year, region and geographic spread
Source: Istat 200a, Istat 2006b – Our elaboration.

Figure 3: Italy – Ageing index 1995
Source: Istat, Our observations.

Figure 4: Italy – Ageing index 2005
Source: Istat 2006a, Our elaboration

The increase in the number of over eighties was particularly significant. In 2005 they make up more than a quarter of the elderly population (2,898,204 individuals, in fact 25.5%) (cf. Figure 5 and Figure 6).

Figure 5: The 80 years and over population as a percentage of the total elderly population of the region – Year 2000
Source: Istat 2006a, Istat 2006b – Our elaboration

Figure 6: 80 years and over population as a percentage of the total elderly population by region – Year 2005
Source: Istat 2006a, 2006b – Our elaboration

Figure 7: Italy – Variation in ageing index 1995-2005
Source: Istat 2006b – Our elaboration.

The data examined attest to the speed and intensity of the ageing phenomenon, but they also show the fact that this phenomenon is not uniform across the country. Indeed, if we consider the percentage distribution of the elderly in the various areas of the country (cf. Figures 3 and 4) it is clear that the Centre-North was, and is, the oldest part of the country. Nevertheless, when we consider the variation in the ageing index (cf. Figure 7), it is revealed that the South is the area of the country where the increase in the elderly population has been the most intense in these ten years. The youngest regions are also those where the ageing phenomenon has seen a surprising acceleration. In some areas of the North, instead, where a consistent incidence of established immigrant family nucleus has been recorded with a consequent increase in foreign minors (Istat 2006f), the growing trend in ageing is beginning to slow down. As is shown from some of our recent elaborations (Tesauro, Pianelli 2007) the North-Eastern Italian ageing index is decreasing (going down from 156.8 to 155.5) as are those of the Friuli and Romagna provinces.

In any event, given the overall ageing of the population, it is plausible that in the medium to long term perspective the socio-health system will have to sustain increasing costs in order to meet the demand for care coming from this part of the population. In this regard suffice it to say that according to Istat estimates (2007) there are around 2 million non self-sufficient elderly people, and around 4,800,000 affected by chronic and multi-pathology illnesses (cf. Figure 8).

Figure 8: Persons of 65 years and over by disabilities and presence of declared chronic illnesses and sex – 2005
Source: Istat 2007 – our elaborations

2 Ageing index: Relationship between the 65 years and over population and the total population.
3 Old age index: relationship between the 65 years and over population and the population up to 14 years of age.
4 Elderly dependence index: relationship between the 65 year old population and the active population (between 15 and 64 years).
5 It was decided to present the level of ageing in the Italian regions in different shades of grey: in many regions they go from pale grey to strong grey, thus showing how intense the ageing phenomenon has been.

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