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The PROGRAMMING COST action – Responding to Rapid Change in Geriatric Medicine

Author: Dr William McKeown

Position: Geriatric Medicine Specialty Registrar 

Institution: Queen's University Belfast

As part of the PROGRAMMING COST Action I have had an opportunity to be at the forefront of research into the state of geriatric medicine in Europe, harmonizing and standardising teaching in geriatrics and developing standardised measures of practice and education.  This work has been ongoing since 2023 and I would contest, without any doubt, that this work is vital for the future of older people's healthcare in Europe, but why?

The population in Europe is rapidly aging and it is vital that we develop healthcare services fit to meet this need. For example, in Ireland, the population aged >65 years old will have almost doubled in size between 2016 and 2051 [1] and similar demographic trends are being seen elsewhere across the continent. Furthermore, standard practice to give our ageing populations the best possible care has been changing rapidly to adapt to these population shifts. Since starting work as a doctor in 2014, hospital at home services have become common place in the UK and Ireland and the range of healthcare professionals involved has mushroomed to include ever more physiotherapists, occupational therapists, specialist pharmacists and advanced nurse practitioners. Yet, the state of geriatric medicine across the continent is highly heterogeneous with geriatric medicine being well established as a specialty in most northern European countries but still is not recognised in others such as Portugal and Greece [2].

So why then the PROGRAMMING COST Action? As a group we are surveying the full range of healthcare professionals working with older people across Europe to identify opportunities for continuous professional education, trigger change and change attitudes of practitioners. I am only one of 320 action participants already involved from over 40 countries, yet we need even more participants still. I would highly encourage any professional who works with older people to get involved, complete the PROGRAMMING COST survey, and consider joining your own national member group. You can also share the survey with colleagues, as the more voice that contribute to this excellent project, the better the resultant healthcare system change for our older people will be. You can find more information on PROGRAMMING – PROmoting GeRiAtric Medicine in countries where it is still eMergING (



  1. Central Statistics Office (2019a). Population and Migration Estimates April 2019. Cork: CSO.

  2. Stuck AE, Masud T. Health care for older adults in Europe: how has it evolved and what are the challenges? Age Ageing. 2022 Dec 5;51(12):afac287. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afac287. PMID: 36529998; PMCID: PMC9760902.

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