1 October is the International Day of Older Persons. Age International sees this as a time to celebrate the achievements of older people and a time to celebrate increased life expectancy around the world.
Population ageing is one of the most significant trends of the 21st century. With 1 in 9 persons in the world aged 60 years or over, projected to increase to 1 in 5 by 2050, population ageing is a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored.
It has important and far-reaching implications for all aspects of society.
Population ageing is happening in all regions and countries at various levels of development. It is progressing fastest in developing countries, including those that have a large population of young people. Of the current 15 countries with more than 10 million older persons, seven of these are developing countries.
Ageing is a triumph of development and increasing longevity is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. People live longer because of improved nutrition, sanitation, medical advances, health care, education and economic well-being.
This demographic transformation presents countless opportunities for tackling poverty with the contributions that a socially and economically active, secure and healthy ageing population can bring to society.
Population ageing also presents social, economic and cultural challenges to individuals, families, societies and the global community. Our partner, HelpAge and the United Nations (UN) have produced a new report ‘Ageing in the 21st Century’ (www.helpage.org/ageingreport), which presents both the achievements and challenges for people in later life in a changing world. In the preface to the report, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon points out:
‘The social and economic implications of this phenomenon are profound, extending far beyond the individual older person and the immediate family, touching broader society and the global community in unprecedented ways.’
It’s how we choose to address the challenges and maximise the opportunities of a growing older population that will determine whether society will reap the benefits of an ageing population.
We need new approaches to the way that societies, workforces, social and intergenerational relations are structured. These must be sustained by strong political commitment, solid data and sound knowledge that ensure global ageing is integrated effectively within development. People everywhere must be able and allowed to age with dignity and security.