The number of people over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050 and require radical societal change because “unfortunately, 70 does not yet appear to be the new 60” contrary to widespread assumptions, according to the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).
In advance of the International Day of Older Persons, which falls on 1 October, WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said “most people, even in the poorest countries, are living longer lives, but this is not enough.”
“We need to ensure these extra years are healthy, meaningful and dignified,” Dr. Chan said.
In his message for the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said older persons are an “enormous asset” to society and called on governments to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable so that no one – of any age – is left behind.
A report released on 30 September 2015 by WHO stressed that governments must ensure policies that enable older people to continue participating in society and that avoid reinforcing the inequities that often underpin poor health in older age.
Contrary to widespread assumptions, WHO said the report finds that there is very little evidence that the added years of life are being experienced in better health than was the case for previous generations at the same age.
“Unfortunately, 70 does not yet appear to be the new 60,” said Dr. John Beard, WHO Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course. “But it could be. And it should be.”
Dr. Beard said while some older people may indeed be experiencing both longer and healthier lives, these people are likely to have come from more advantaged segments of society.
But the report rejects the stereotype of older people as frail and dependent and says the many contributions that older people make are often overlooked.
Women, according to the report, who comprise the majority of older people, provide much of the family care for those who can no longer care for themselves.
“As we look to the future, we need to appreciate the importance of ageing in the lives of women, particularly in poorer countries,” according to Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director- General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health. “And we need to think much more about how we can ensure the health of women right across the life course.”
The report highlights three key areas for action, beginning with making cities and communities friendlier to older people. Also critical is realigning health systems to the needs of older people and governments developing long-term care systems that can reduce inappropriate use of acute health services and ensure people live their last years with dignity.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Older Persons – “Sustainability and age inclusiveness in the urban environment” – highlights the need to make cities inclusive for people of all ages.
On World Day, UN Chief Shines Spotlight on Once-taboo Topic of Elder Abuse
The distressing crime of elder abuse often occurs in quiet, private settings, Ban Ki-moon on 15 June 2015 said on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, as he reminded people around the world of the importance of making “a vocal, public response” to support the rights of older persons to a life free of violence and abuse.
“It is a disturbing and tragic fact in our world that members of the older generations are too often neglected and abused,” the UN chief said in a message. “This painful reality generally goes ignored by mainstream society.”
“At the same time,” Ban said, “the ageing of the world’s population has added urgency to promoting and defending the rights of older persons, who are expected to make up more than 20 per cent of the global population by 2050.”
Let us strengthen our resolve to end this problem as part of our broader efforts to create a life of dignity for all.
In terms of numbers, that translates into the population of people aged 60 years and older more than doubling from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Resolved to shed light on this injustice, the UN General Assembly designated 15 June as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The annual commemoration has helped to generate an emerging global discussion of a once-taboo issue as people come together to support the rights of older persons to a life free of violence and abuse.
Events marking the world day were scheduled around the world, including a commemoration in New York entitled Elder abuse vs. violence against older persons: what are the differences and what are the solutions?, and another in Geneva, Switzerland titled: Falling between the Cracks: Abuse and violence against Older Women Marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Ban said that for many, elder abuse “conjures an image of a heartless caregiver who is not well-known to the victim. While this deplorable problem does persist, more often it is family members who perpetrate the violations, which include neglect as well as psychological, financial and physical abuse.”
“Research shows that age, gender and dependency raise the risks of abuses, with women suffering the heaviest toll,” he added.
“The distressing crime of elder abuse often occurs in quiet, private settings, making a vocal, public response that much more important,” the Secretary-General concluded. “Let us strengthen our resolve to end this problem as part of our broader efforts to create a life of dignity for all.” (Source: UN).