Growing Old in Good Health

"My health is important to me. This is why I watch my diet and try to get enough exercise. If I still get ill, I put my hopes in medical progress."

Grauer Kasten muss weg, Teaser soll nur aus Bild und Bildunterschrift bestehen.

Improved living conditions and good healthcare have brought us closer to the ultimate dream of mankind, a long and healthy life. Every human would like to live in good health and delay the onset of illness as long as possible. However, the increase of life expectancy is accompanied by a rising number of people that suffer from age-related illnesses. These most of all include cardiovascular conditions, musculoskeletal diseases and cancer, as well as diabetes mellitus, dementia and depression. In many cases, there are several concurrent medical conditions present. One of the central focus areas of the "Health Research Framework Programme" adopted by the Federal Government in December 2010 is therefore the improvement of old-age health care.

Researching the basic processes of ageing

The ageing process and the incidence of disease in old age are influenced by a complex interplay of personal disposition, lifestyle and the environment. Socioeconomic status, social stress, marital status and the living environment are classified as additional variables. With the objective to promote and maintain health for as long as possible, the Federal Government promotes advanced fundamental research in the life sciences about the mechanisms of ageing. These activities aim at the improvement of the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of impairments and illnesses most relevant in old age.

Promoting health and preventing illness

Studies show that prevention and health promotion make sense and are effective for people at any age. The Federal Government therefore funds the development, testing and evaluation of new prevention measures, as well as the improvement of the existing health programmes for the elderly. The objective is to boost self-responsibility, avoid reductions in earning capacity, maintain physical and cognitive ability, and thereby improve the quality of life up until old age. In this context, we also support nutritional science, and the development of effective interventions for age-specific symptoms such as changes in appetite and thirst, and the attendant deficiency symptoms.

Improving diagnostic and therapeutic approaches

In the "Health Research Framework Programme", the Federal Government promotes the development of innovative medical devices and treatment approaches for specific impairments and illnesses in old age. In doing so, we pay particular attention to the treatment of (multi-) morbidity and the interaction of medications. Helpful in this respect are, by way of example, high resolution imaging processes that allow for an early and exact diagnosis. Intelligent implants that automatically and individually measure out pharmaceutical ingredients, new medical drugs and minimally invasive methods permit precise and less burdensome therapies.

By means of research funding for individualized medicine, we also contribute to an improved treatment of age-specific illnesses. Mobile diagnostics and telemedical support systems offer older patients the possibility of more comfortable healthcare in their living environment. This is of particular importance in rural areas. In order to accelerate the transfer of knowledge and technology into practice and render it more effective, we promote the inclusion of research-intensive companies in interdisciplinary networks, as for example in the field of medical biotechnology.

Supporting and stimulating functions

We support the development of technical assistance systems that detect functional losses and help compensate them. For example, by analysing movement patterns, sensors are capable to detect when a person is at risk of falling and initiate stabilizing fall-prevention actions. Technical assistance systems can also play an important part in the rehabilitation at home; take for example physiotherapeutic training systems for stroke patients. Specific stimulation of affected limbs can markedly improve or even restore their mobility. In addition, we fund the development of solutions that contribute to an improved interconnectedness of older people and their relatives with the physicians in charge, pharmacies and hospitals.

Evidence-based healthcare

Whoever suffers from an illness is entitled to a safe and effective therapy. In this respect the healthcare system is faced with the challenge of improving age-appropriate care in medical and organizational terms whilst limiting the expenditure at the same time. The Federal Government therefore promotes social care research and ensures that both new and established procedures are tested for efficiency, in order to apply specific measures that are worthwhile and effective. The cost-benefit relationship of treatments is documented in clinical studies and, most of all, in the daily routines of care provision. All activities are aimed at maintaining sustainable excellence in the healthcare system.