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Health in Old Age

Nowadays, increased life expectancy offers many people the prospect of active participation in society for many years after raising children and retiring from work. A prerequisite for this is that the extra years should be experienced with the highest possible level of health.

As we get older, the probability of chronic diseases and multiple illnesses (multimorbidity) also increases. Older people with multimorbidity, age-related dementia and severely impaired physical function (frailty) often have to rely on help to carry out everyday activities. They have a high risk of ultimately needing permanent nursing care.

It is therefore important to support and provide healthcare for older people already suffering from health problems and impaired physical function and capability. The aim is for them to live independently for as long as possible and be able to take part in a social life.

Activities at Robert Koch Institute

Within the scope of continuous health monitoring, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also collects representative information on the state of health of older people living in their own home. The question of which factors are related to healthy ageing and how the situation in Germany is changing over time is of particular importance.

Important indicators in this area include the level of physical and cognitive function, the number and type of chronic illnesses and signs of frailty (for example, high incidence of falls and broken bones, significant weight loss, limited mobility), health-related limited ability in everyday life, and social participation.

Age-specific aspects of healthcare quality are also covered, such as the use of multiple medications (polypharmacy). 

Use of Results

The data collected at the Robert Koch Institute can be used in conducting analyses on the long-term development of diseases in old age, healthcare requirements and potential for prevention. These types of analyses form a useful basis for predicting trends.

One important question, for example, is whether an extension or compression of morbidity will occur in old age in the future. This would have socio-economic consequences. Regularly collected data on the health of the population aged 65 and older also supports the national health target “Healthy ageing”.

Involvement in the national health target “Healthy ageing”.


‘We can do only what we have the means for’
general practitioners’ views of primary care for older people with complex health problems

Herzog A, Gaertner B, Scheidt-Nave C, Holzhausen M (2015) BMC Family Practice 16:35 doi: 10.1186/s12875-015-0249-2

Prevalence and correlates of frailty among older adults: findings from the German health interview and examination survey

Buttery AK, Busch MA, Gaertner B, Scheidt-Nave C and Fuchs J (2015) BMC Geriatrics 15:22 doi: 10.1186/s12877-015-0022-3

Indicators for healthy ageing – A debate

Fuchs J, Christa Scheidt-Nave C, Hinrichs T, Mergenthaler A, Stein J, Riedel-Heller SG, Grill E (2013) Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013 10:6630-6644 doi: 10.3390/ijerph10126630

Operationalizing multimorbidity and autonomy for health services research in aging populations - the OMAHA study

Holzhausen M, Fuchs J, Busch M et al (2011) BMC Health Services Research, 11:47