There are currently 580 million elderly aged 60 and over in the world, and of these 355 million live in the developing countries. Within the last fifty years, the rate of accelerated death in developing countries has visibly decreased, and life expectancy at birth has increased from 41 years in the early 1950s to 62 years in 1990. In the year 2020, life expectancy at birth is predicted to reach 70. Similarly, it has been estimated that the anticipated life expectancy averages at birth in Turkey of 72.7 years for women and 68 years for men in the year 2005 will have risen to 73.8 for women and 69 for men by the year 2010. This increase in the average life expectancy has become a social problem due to the resulting effects made on social life by the industrial revolution.
The requirements of individuals change the older they become. By the year 2020, it is anticipated that one in three deaths in developing countries will be through causes related to old age, and that the majority of these deaths will be from non-contagious diseases such as circulation system disorders, cancers and diabetes. As life expectancy increases, so does the risk of some chronic diseases. The elderly become ill more frequently, have to live with more chronic diseases or problems, and are generally trying to fight against several health problems at once, resulting in an increase in the number of medications taken. Consequently, the elderly apply to health institutions more and stay for longer periods in hospitals, rendering the elderly passive, dependent consumers.
The aging of the community brings with it new and serious problems both nationally and internationally, with WHO describing it as an important developmental element requiring emergency action. The term ‘old age’ defines not only an individual’s appearance, but also refers to a loss of power, role and position. Loss of full possession of the faculties and a proneness to physical diseases causes an individual to become more dependent on others, a fact that requires consideration when deciding on the manner in which the elderly are approached. Beyond the traditional approach of caring for the elderly in the accommodation of their own homes or in residential care homes, the state or private enterprise must seek alternative services in order to ensure the well-being of the elderly.