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Developing countries face ageing revolution

Published on 02 February 2015 12:01 AM

In 2050, there will be more people worldwide aged 60 and over than children under 16 for the first time in history.

Today, 62% of the 868 million people aged over 60 live in developing countries; this proportion is expected to increase to 80% in 2050.


That more people are living longer in developing countries is a cause for celebration, but this new reality also brings new challenges if it goes unrecognised.

An ageing population will affect everything from economies and labour markets to health and social care.

New analysis by Age International, the international relief and development charity, finds that diseases most commonly associated with ageing, such as ischaemic heart disease, stroke and COPD, make up three of the top four causes of death in low- and middle-income countries.

The increase in prevalence of non-communicable diseases shows the need to invest in the kinds of services and programmes that people require in later life.

Age International is calling on the UK government to ensure older people are fully taken into account in negotiations on the UN's post-2015 sustainable development goal framework and to also ensure the UK government's development programme supports people of all ages.

Facing the facts

The findings come as Age International launches its new publication, Facing the facts: the truth about ageing and development.

The report brings together expert opinion on the trends, challenges and opportunities presented by a global ageing population.

It covers a number of topics, including 'challenging preconceptions about ageing' and 'health and care in an ageing world'.

Authors include Margaret Chan (Director-General of the World Health Organization), Mary Robinson (member of The Elders) and Sir Brendan Gormley (former Chief Executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee).

Facing the facts draws attention to the wide range of social and economic benefits older people bring to their communities and challenges negative stereotypes of ageing.

Older people have a lifetime of skills and experience, and most continue to contribute to local economies through paid or unpaid employment.

Many also have valuable roles caring for or raising children. For example, up to 60% of children orphaned by AIDS in Zimbabwe and Namibia are raised by their grandparents.

Chris Roles, Director of Age International, said: 'Our analysis highlights how population ageing affects every aspect of development, but simply isn't being given the attention it deserves. We need policies that are fit for the world around us and the future ahead, not ones based on out of date views of who lives in developing countries.

'For example, our experience tells us that older people are far too often invisible in emergency humanitarian situations as well as longer term development programmes. Ignoring the ageing population is no longer an option.'

Mary Robinson said: 'The world has more older people today than ever before, yet too many older people still face prejudice and discrimination. Facing the facts is a welcome and much-needed step towards greater recognition of the rights, dignity and value of older people around the world.'

Margaret Chan said: 'The health needs of the world's population are being transformed by global ageing yet governments, development and health practitioners have been slow to react. The increase in the number of older people is one of the success stories of international development and how we respond to this reality will be one of the keys to prosperity in the future.'

Get the full report from the Age International website

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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