4 ways to improve the lives of older people

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Prakash Tyagi, Founder-Director, GRAVIS Hospital; Executive Director, GRAVIS


  • By 2050, it is expected there will be more humans over 60 than under 15 for the first time in history.
  • Older people are harder hit by poverty and ill-health, necessitating better support structures be put in place.
  • The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing gives a framework for improving older people’s lives.

Population ageing and the resulting demographic transition around the world present complex challenges. It is estimated that the global population of older persons will rise by 56% between 2015 and 2030, from 956 million to 1.4 billion, and hit the 2.1 billion mark by 2050. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the 60+ age group globally is expected to rise from 12% to a staggering 22%. People over 60 will outnumber those below the age of 15 for the first time in history.

The transition is rapid and dramatic, and uneven in different parts of the world. While it took France about 150 years to rise from 10% to 20% of the population being older than 60, a similar transition will occur India, China and Brazil in about 20 years. In high-income countries, the proportions of older people have been rising gradually, with over 28% of Japan’s population already being over 65 years of age.

The proportion of older people worldwide is ageing
The proportion of older people worldwide is ageing Image: UN

Large numbers of older people, particularly in lower- and middle-income countries, live in severe poverty and in poor health, with no or limited access to basic health services and social protection benefits. There are gender disparities too, with older women experiencing greater deprivation. Research suggests that in sub-Saharan Africa households headed by older women live in greater poverty compared to households headed by men of equivalent age. Furthermore, the correlation between ageing and disability is clear, with over 46% of older people worldwide living with some form of disability. Over 250 million older people have moderate to severe disabilities. These numbers are likely to rise further, causing more hardship.

This significant demographic transition means there is unprecedented need for age-friendly and responsive healthcare systems and a range of coordinated services to address the complex needs of this ageing global population.

The proposal of observing a Decade of Healthy Ageing from 2021 to 2030 was adopted by the UN General Assembly last December. This global collaboration is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and will bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector, in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To foster healthy ageing and to improve the lives of older people, the Decade of Healthy Ageing will focus on four action areas. The first is to create and strengthen age-friendly environments by removing physical and social barriers and by converting them into better places to live and to age. The second is to combat ageism: Older people, despite their significant contributions to society, are often overlooked and subject to prejudice. Such stereotyping and discrimination must be addressed.

The third is to provide integrated care. All older people should have non-discriminatory access to integrated care, which should include but is not limited to: prevention, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative and “end of life” care – which must be safe, affordable and of good quality. The fourth is to support long-term care (LTC). With significant decline in their mental and physical capacities, many older people are unable to live an independent life or to actively participate in society. Hence, access to good LTC services is essential to maintain their functional ability, to ensure that they enjoy basic human rights and that they live a life with dignity.

Numbers of older people above 60 by world regions
Numbers of older people above 60 by world regions Image: UN

Four further enablers will be critical to the Decade of Healthy Ageing: engaging directly with the voices of older people; leadership development and capacity-building at all levels; connecting all stakeholders; and strengthening research, data and innovation.

The decade, its action areas and enablers lay out a solid framework to foster healthy ageing around the world. However, stronger efforts will have to be made into converting a theoretical framework into practical and measurable actions. To date, progress has been limited and further delayed by priorities imposed by the pandemic. On 1 October, International Day of the Older Persons (IDOP), which this year has a theme of Digital Equity for All Ages, is an important opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved.

Looking ahead, it may be worthwhile to categorize basic needs into groups. The first is to design a comprehensive communication mechanism and to deliver the decade of healthy ageing messages to all stakeholders, most importantly to older people themselves. The sooner the information disseminates and is well understood, the more active the stakeholder participation should be.

A second key group of needs is to develop a strategy for partnerships that are going to be crucial in engagement of key groups, delivery of services and for research and advocacy. Civil society, government agencies and the private sector are three important constituents of the partnerships spectrum, and a clear plan for involving them must be developed at both macro and micro levels.

A third is to create guiding groups at national level (and at provincial or sub-national levels too in the case of larger countries) comprising representatives from different sectors who can ensure dynamic planning, implementation and monitoring of actions.

Fourthly, the decade also provides an important opportunity to strengthen LTC services and improve integrated care – fundamentally important blocks of healthy ageing that require greater attention. Community-based LTC will have to be reinforced by promoting self-care and by training and capacity-building of formal and informal caregivers. Primary care needs must be addressed in remote and rural settings, assuring integrated care for older people. Existing models and past experiences from Help Age Global network and from organizations like GRAVIS in India may provide replicable insights. The knowledge accumulated by senior-age people’s organizations, especially how to strengthen intergenerational exchanges to ensure lifelong application of healthy ageing principles, is a valuable resource worth utilizing.

COVID-19-related challenges are already a hindrance and will likely continue to hamper progress on healthy ageing for many years. Mitigation strategies will have to be worked out in advance in the context of community education and delivery of care services using digital education, telemedicine and within COVID guidelines, keeping the local context and situation in view. Existing healthcare infrastructure overburdened by the pandemic will have to be used judiciously. Future of Work

What is the World Economic Forum doing about including older people in the workforce?

There is a global myth that productivity declines as workers age. In fact, including older workers is an untapped source for growth.

The world has entered a new phase of demographic development where people are living longer and healthier lives. As government pension schemes are generally ill-equipped to manage this change, insurers and other private-sector stakeholders have an opportunity to step in.https://www.weforum.org/videos/promoting-an-age-inclusive-workforce-living-learning-earning-longer

The World Economic Forum, along with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and AARP, have created a learning collaborative with over 50 global employers including AIG, Allianz, Aegon, Home Instead, Invesco and Mercer. These companies represent over two million employees and $1 trillion in annual revenue.

Learn more in our impact story.

Urgent action will help progress on meeting the complex needs of healthy ageing and ensure an alignment with the 2030 agenda’s overall vision. Let this IDOP be an important reminder of the priorities and to pick up the pace of the action.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Why the foundations of the modern world are costing the earth

World Cancer Day: Early cervical cancer diagnosis could save lives of over 300,000 women

Covid-19 crisis shows supply chains need to embrace new technologies

What is adversarial artificial intelligence and why does it matter?

MEPs want to ensure sufficient funding for Connecting Europe’s future

Two out of every five American couples now meet online

Trade defence report: restoring the level playing field for European producers

Peace operations benefit from improved cooperation between the UN and troop-providing countries, says peacekeeping chief

Switzerland has the most highly skilled workers in the world. This is why

Infringement – Commission takes Italy to Court for its incomplete regime of access to genetic resources

Capital Markets Union: Making it easier for insurers to invest in the real economy

Venezuela: ‘A worrying destabilizing factor in the region’, Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

How cocoa farming can help stop deforestation

Inaction over climate emergency ‘not an option’ says UN Assembly chief

A Year in China

Drug laws must be amended to ‘combat racial discrimination’, UN experts say

What UK and EU risk if Brexit “wins” these elections

€200 million to promote European agri-food products in and outside the EU

Palliative care and Universal Health Coverage: how to advocate for the inclusion of palliative care in UHC

Eurozone in trouble after Nicosia’s ‘no’

Questions and Answers on the EU Digital Covid Certificate

The Shifting Rhythms of Harmonious China: Ancient, Modern & Eternal

Obsolete tech is clogging up global trade. Here’s how to unblock it

Rebuilding after COVID: The challenge is digital

UNIDO promotes post-harvest excellence for mangoes in the Mekong River Delta of Viet Nam

Palliative Care: a human right

Collective action now, the only way to meet global challenges, Guterres reaffirms in annual report

NHS: A great healthcare system but how accessible is it to migrants?

Sub10 Systems @ MWC14: Bridging the Ethernet of the Future

Citizens to be the cornerstone of the Conference on the Future of Europe

Lessons learnt, unlearnt or re-learnt? Analyzing the third wave of COVID-19

The post-pandemic future of work – according to 3,000 CEOs from around the world

Growing a new coral reef in a fraction of the time with a fragment of the coral

Poland: €676 million worth of EU investments in better rails and roads

Main results of EU-Japan summit: Tokyo, 17/07/2018

Ocean life faces ‘onslaught of threats’ from human activity, but tools exist to save it

270 million people are migrants, who send home a staggering $689 billion

Human rights: breaches in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan

Climate action ‘both a priority and a driver of the decade’: Guterres

Coronavirus Global Response: WHO and Commission launch the Facilitation Council to strengthen global collaboration

As tech disrupts our jobs, it’s not too late to turn pain into gain

State aid: Commission approves €2 billion Italian guarantee scheme to support trade credit insurance market in the context of the coronavirus outbreak

Teachers launch a free ebook to help children cope with the pandemic

COVID-19 has been a setback for women. Gender-responsive policies can stem the losses

How COVID-19 vaccine efforts could help defeat other diseases

European financial values on the rise

Human Rights breaches in Iran, Kazakhstan and Guatemala

COVID-19: EU helps to deliver vaccines to Moldova and medical items to Montenegro and North Macedonia

UN Human Rights chief urges Venezuela to halt grave rights violations

West Bank: ‘imminent’ demolition of Palestinian village could be ‘war crime’ – ICC Prosecutor

Cities will lead the electric transport revolution. Here’s why

An alternative view of Globalization 4.0, and how to get there

This is what Belgium’s traffic-choked capital is doing about emissions

Closing the gaps in accelerating women’s rights: the role of medical students

Companies ‘failing’ to address offline harm incited by online hate: UN expert

Why the 33,000 staff European Commission did not have a real contingency plan for the refugee crisis?

‘Maintain calm’ and ‘exercise patience’ UN envoy urges, as Nigeria heads to polls

This UK footballer just won free school meals for kids in the summer holidays

6 stages for fostering and harnessing imagination in companies

‘We will not give up on looking for peace for South Sudan’: UN deputy chief

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: