An astonishing transformation is taking place that has until now been absent from mainstream development thinking: global ageing. Its absence is even more surprising as the evidence makes clear that demographic changes are affecting developing countries the most.
Currently about one in ten of the population is aged 60 or over; but within a generation – 2050 – this ratio will soar to one in five. Two-thirds of the 868 million older people alive today are in developing countries; and of the 2 billion people expected to be over the age of 60 by 2050, over three-quarters will live in low and middle-income countries. The rate of change is phenomenal.
As well as being the Chair of Age UK, I am also on the Board of its subsidiary charity,Age International. I believe passionately that people in later life all over the world deserve our support. That is why I am proud that Age International is helping older people in more than 40 developing countries around the world, including the Philippines after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan.
When disasters strike, people ask me three main questions:
1.Will aid be delivered?
Yes it will. I have had the privilege of seeing our work in action. We work through local partners who know the situation on the ground better than anyone else. We have strict monitoring and evaluation procedures in place, so we know money will be used correctly. In the Philippines, we are working through our
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is one of the strongest storms to ever hit land. Thousands of people have been killed; hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed; millions are at risk. We estimate that approximately 1.3 million older people have been affected by the typhoon.
The typhoon crashed into the Philippines in the early hours of 8 November. Pitch black, it was difficult enough to flee in darkness, let alone when contending with crashing waves and gushing winds. Imagine if on top of that, you are a frail, older person. How do you escape? And then when you are in a place of safety, how do you get aid that suits your needs?
Older people are particularly at risk
Older women and men are particularly at risk in emergencies. They are the ones least able to flee quickly; and the ones most likely to need support. They often cannot run; they cannot carry possessions – such as blankets and clothes to keep themselves warm and dry. They cannot queue for long periods for aid. They cannot rebuild their homes alone. They are often excluded from cash-for-work programmes, in the erroneous belief that they are no longer working. For many agencies, older people remain invisible.
At this year’s political party conferences the future of the Human Rights Act (HRA)was a hot topic, with the Conservative Party announcing a manifesto commitment to scrap the HRA and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, while the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party vowed to staunchly defend the status quo.
This debate, which is set to intensify between now and the next general election, tends to focus on a narrow range of human rights issues, namely how the HRA affects groups such as immigrants and prisoners. What usually gets lost in this debate is the crucial role that human rights can play in the everyday lives of those whose rights are at risk in very different contexts, such as vulnerable older people receiving health or social care.
Last week theEquality and Human Rights Commissionpublished the latest in a series of reports about the human rights of older people who receive care at home. It highlights that funding pressures which result in brief care visits have a devastating effect on both the older people relying on these services as well as the staff forced to choose between rushing visits, leaving early without finishing tasks or running late between clients. For local authorities to meet their human rights obligations and for older people to be assured of dignified and respectful care, the rates paid to care providers must cover the cost of care. Continue reading “Older People’s Human Rights on the agenda at national and global level”
The world is undergoing a demographic revolution. We are currently witnessing the dividends of improving health care and living standards in fast rising longevity across the globe.
The number of older people over 60 years old is expected to increase from about 600 million in 2000 to 2 billion by 2050. This change will be most dramatic in developing world countries where the number of older people is expected to triple during the next 40 years.
These are tough times for all of us trying to balance our budgets. We all have to find ways of cutting corners so we can continue to feed our families. For some of us that means buying less food, for others that means buying cheaper food. But what is the real price of cheap food?
No one over the past few weeks can fail to have realised that cheaper food sometimes means questionable quality and provenance. It appears clear that profit has been put before people (and animals):
The public wants cheaper produce;
The supermarkets want to attract customers by keeping prices lower;
The supermarkets therefore pay lower prices to their suppliers;
And right at the end of the chain, the farmer suffers.
Nowhere is this more evident in developing countries which either cannot afford to pay its farmers subsidies, or choose not to do so.
These are tough times for us; but even tougher times for millions of farmers and workers in developing countries – many of whom are older people. Despite producing approximately 70 per cent of the world’s food, over half of the world’s hungry people are smallholder farmers themselves, who struggle to earn a decent living from their crops. Unfair trade means they still only receive a tiny proportion of the price we pay for food.