We are living in ageing societies with low birth rates and increasing longevity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), population ageing is both one of humanity’s greatest triumphs and one of its greatest challenges.

Notwithstanding further increases in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in the coming decades, it has been proposed that the expected increase in the sheer numbers of people over the age of 65 years will lead to increased demands on our health and welfare services in particular. However, the WHO and UN also propose that it is how we plan for the ageing of our population, how we choose to address the challenges and to maximise the opportunities, that will determine whether society can reap the benefits of the ‘longevity dividend’. In essence, they propose that societies that are willing to plan can afford to grow old.

Active, productive and successful ageing, each of these concepts revolves around the idea that older people are capable of living a self-reliant life, successfully compensating for losses, contributing to the public good, helping themselves and others, as well as striving for positive fulfilment through meaningful engagement.