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UN-backed meeting charts course for helping older persons in Asia-Pacific region

UN-backed meeting charts course for helping older persons in Asia-Pacific region

Over 100 representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations and academia from 26 Asian and Pacific countries along with United Nations officials have forged a document on helping the region’s large population of older persons.

Delegates attending a meeting organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Macao, China, today adopted an “Outcome Document” outlining specific measures aimed at ensuring income security in old age, raising public awareness of the benefits of active ageing, and generating inter-generational solidarity.

“One of the critical issues to be addressed is finding ways to match the desire of many older persons to remain productive with the actual employment opportunities available for them. Many countries also recognize the impact of modernization, migration and changing family structures on families’ ability to care for older persons,” said Keiko Osaki, Chief of ESCAP’s Population and Social Integration Section.

“Universal social security coverage is virtually non-existent in the region and wherever it exists, its sustainability is being questioned,” she said.

The Macao Outcome Document urges governments in the region to ensure sustainable and adequate retirement income and to raise awareness among younger generations about life-long preparation for old age and retirement, including in the areas of health and financial security. It underscores the need for data collection, research and studies focused on elderly issues.

Acknowledging the specific context of the Asian and Pacific region and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the Macao Outcome Document encourages the establishment of training programmes to further strengthen the capacities of informal caregivers and promotes the concept of “ageing in place” through the development of age-friendly physical environments.

The Document also urges governments to promote social and economic equalities for all ages so that older persons, especially women living in poverty, have universal access to health care.

Home to over 60 per cent of the world population, the Asian and Pacific region now accounts for 410 million older persons. This number is expected to increase to 733 million in 2025 and to a staggering 1.3 billion by 2050.

“It is essential for governments in the region to start planning ahead for the socio-economic implications of ageing societies, with the understanding of the changing demands and needs of the future elderly population,” said Thelma Kay, Director of ESCAP’s Emerging Social Issues Division.

Over the next 45 years, Asians aged 60 and older will triple in number, to 1.3 billion, and grow from 10 per cent to 25 per cent of the population, due to falling fertility and rising life expectancy, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which estimates that Japan’s over-60 population will grow from 28 per cent today to 44 per cent by 2050.

This demographic shift is occurring most rapidly in East Asia, where older persons will outnumber children under 15 by 2008, the agency said.

Garimela Giridhar, Director of UNFPA’s Technical Services Team for East and South-East Asia, said the agency is working in a number of Asian countries to advocate anti-discriminatory legislation, promote data collection and analysis, and encourage families and communities to support older people.

The three-day meeting in Macao reviewed the progress made in Asia and the Pacific in carrying out the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, a landmark document adopted five years ago at the Second World Assembly on Ageing.