We’re days away from entering what the World Health Organization proclaimed to be “the Decade of Healthy Ageing.” Health systems around the world, however, are woefully underequipped to provide the care that healthy aging requires.

From 2020 to 2030, the pressure will be on for national governments, policymakers, and healthcare providers to redress the scarcity of resources available to the elderly and the people who care for them. High on any country’s list of priorities should be the research, development, and funding of robust long term care systems. Within thirty years, the number of older adults in need of long term care is expected to reach 277 million globally. Of these, millions—27 million, to be exact—will be living in the United States.

To build long term care systems with the sole purpose of purveying end of life supports and services is not enough—not nearly. For these systems to be accessible, affordable, and equitable to all, they must discard a notion of health overdetermined by illness and treatment in favor of one befitting the full complexity of the person.

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Originally published on Forbes (December 27, 2019)