World ill-prepared for ageing2nd October 2012
The United Nations has warned governments around the world that they should formulate policies to cope with the effects of ageing on the global population.
A report published on the International Day of Older Persons by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the charity HelpAge International, said developing countries in particular may be unprepared for the burden of the ageing population.
The report calls on governments to ensure older people can continue to enjoy medical care in later life, now that more people are living longer.
Around one in nine people are now over the age of 60, a total of 810 million out of the world's seven-billion population.
The number is set to rise to around one billion over the next 10 years. By 2050, two billion people could be in that age bracket.
Experts attending a symposium on ageing in Japan, which has the fastest-growing elderly population, said developing countries would see a speeding up of population ageing.
In Japan, more than one in four people is already over 65, and the percentage of elderly people looks likely to rise to around 40% over the next five decades.
UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin said the world was becoming older, fast.
He told a news conference that population ageing was one of the most significant trends of this century.
Developing countries currently still have fairly young populations, where there are far more younger people working than there are older people drawing pensions.
However, around 80% of the world's older people will live in developing countries by 2050, the report said.
In a joint statement issued with the report, the UNFPA and HelpAge International said many governments in developing countries were still unprepared for such huge demographic changes.
Many governments had yet to put in place practices or policies to support their current elderly populations, nor had they made further preparations to meet the projected challenges of 2050, they said.
Many older people are under-employed and vulnerable, and more likely to suffer violence, abuse and discrimination at home and in the workplace, the report warned.
It said many elderly people were relatively poor and had problems getting adequate medical care, meaning they were likely to have chronic health problems like high blood pressure that went untreated.
Governments should invest in older people and end practices detrimental to their quality of life, the report said.
According to Richard Blewitt, chief executive officer of HelpAge International, countries need to address their mismanagement of the ageing population and put in place strong laws and associated plans and budgets.
He said basic social policies like affordable medical care for elders and the abolition of a mandatory retirement age were crucial to this process.
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