Aging in Italy: The Need for New Welfare Strategies in an Old Country

Italy has the largest proportion of elderly citizens (aged ≥65) in Europe of 21.4%. Italy is conducting important studies on aging, both at the national and international level. Physicians and researchers in the field of geriatrics and gerontology are not only promoting quality of life in the elderly, and healthy-active aging, but also contributing to economic stability and social organization. (pp 387-378) The demographic evolution of the Italian population and the increase of average age have raised the issue of non-self-sufficiency experienced by a growing number of people. Policies have had to be created for long-term care, because many families face issues in reconciling the time accorded to care giving needs with the working commitments. A further emerging issue is the implementation of the intermediate care, that is, strategies that complement social care with health care interventions or rehabilitation procedures, in order to provide comprehensive services to the elderly, allowing them to live at home. However, in Italy, these two forms of assistance are provided by two well-separated entities. Because of this strict separation and of difficulties in optimizing collaboration, intermediate care realities actually implemented and effectively oriented toward the quality of life of the elderly are still sparse. Additionally, specific policies for the non self-sufficient elderly are still lacking. For these reasons, a large number of families privately employed eldercare assistants (known as badanti, literally “those involved in the surveillance and care”) to allow the older generation to age in place.