Ageing in Asia Pacific

Camilla Williamson is Public Affairs Adviser at Age UK and is currently doing a three month secondment with HelpAge International at their East Asia Pacific Regional evelopment Centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Camilla is working on ageing policy in the region and strategies for communicating the work the regional team are doing with people in later life to governments.

A number of people’s initial response to the topic of ageing in Asia Pacific might be to assume that as a result of wide-spread poverty and health challenges in the region, population ageing is less of an issue here than it is in, say, Europe. But a glance at some global and regional stats on changing demographics will quickly give you an appreciation of the challenges countries here are facing and why the ageing population debate is especially pertinent to them.

Many of you will know the often repeated stat that the global population of over 60s is set to more than double by 2050, resulting in there being, for the first time, more people over 60 in the world than under 15. But did you also know that 80% of these older people will be in the developing world, with 1,236 million (62%) in Asia?

It is not just the enormity of the figure that presents a challenge: it’s also a question of pace.  Whereas it took between 45 and 150 years to double the older population from 7 to 14 percent in most developed European countries, it is expected to take China, for example, a mere 26 years; Thailand 22, and Singapore a mere 19.

The key issue here is that unlike most Western countries, many East Asia Pacific nations are having to meet the needs of an ageing population before they become relatively wealthy and modernized. The (often extreme) poverty that many of these countries face means that while in Europe we have social protection and health care systems which are there to support us as we age, in these countries providing universal welfare of this sort, even solely for the elderly, is a challenge. 

The task then for organisations like Age UK and our sister organisation, HelpAge International, cannot be to merely encourage governments in the region to provide more directly, but to encourage and support them to enable non government organisations, business, civil society and, most importantly, older people themselves to come together and develop collaborative systems for improving later life. 

Key areas for work include strengthening the informal care system; tackling gender inequality – there are many more older women than men in the region, and they are in more severe poverty than their male counterparts; improving health and wellbeing; addressing the needs of older people in emergencies; and enabling economic, social and political participation for people in later life.   

The Strategic Framework for Social Welfare and Development (2011-15) published this month by ASEAN (Association of South East Asia Network), with support from HelpAge in Asia, addresses a number of these issues and provides governments in the region with a strong framework for progress. HelpAge’s role in this will be to use our expertise to help develop and build capacity for the design, budget and delivery of innovative solutions.

Through older people’s associations all over the region, we are already delivering practical projects on the ground addressing the full range of older people’s needs.  These include home care services, HIV/AIDS programmes, advocacy work, social protection training, and income-generating programmes.  Through these projects, the network successfully helps thousands of older people and their communities.   Our job for the future is to advance this work and show governments in the region, by example, how they can, individually and in partnerships, help many, many more.

 Find out more about our international work

Find out more about our partner HelpAge International


4 thoughts on “Ageing in Asia Pacific”

  1. Hi Camilla,

    Great summary of HelpAge’s work in Thailand and the region. We’re glad to have you working with us for the next few months!

    Just as an aside, I thought I would point people to some more detailed information on HelpAge’s work with older people’s associations which supports older people to access healthcare, fight for their rights and gain an income. You can also see some inidivual stories of older people who we have worked with:

    Sarah (from HelpAge)

  2. Dear Mike Bradley, the older population of the world is not my concern, so don’t go there with this discussion we are having, as its the older people of the UK who I represent not the World. I’m taking about help being taken away from the older generation of the UK. Age concern are no more I gather, taken over by AGE UK. As and when Age concern were in business they didn’t state about funding abroad, although majority of people believed they were acting for the old people of the UK, but as you no doubt know that wasn’t the case. I state that AGE UK are and it must be addressed at the highest level, miss-leading the British public with donations and funding etc using their trading name as. AGE UK

    1. Hi Alan – thanks for your comment.

      Age UK has a sister charity called HelpAge International, with whom it works to help improve the lives of poor and vulnerable older people abroad.

      The funds for our overseas work and our UK work are separate, so if you make a regular donation, the money will go specifically towards helping the older people in this country.

      You might find the answers to some of your questions on our website, if you’re worried about how Age UK uses its donations and why we work overseas

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment 🙂

  3. Its nice to hear that every penny donated to Age UK stays in the UK. I do hope we have Age UK’s management support with our new charity “Help UK’s Aged,” thank you for your reply

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