A new report by HelpAge International and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) states that the number of older people is growing faster than any other age group.
Launched 1 October, the United Nations International Day of Older Persons, this landmark report "Ageing in the Twenty-first Century: A Celebration and a Challenge" underlines that, while the trend of ageing societies is a cause for celebration, it also presents huge challenges as it requires completely new approaches to health care, employment and living arrangements.
In 2000, for the first time in history, there were more people over 60 than children below five. By 2050, the older generation will be larger than the under-15 population. If not addressed promptly, the consequences of these issues are likely to take unprepared countries by surprise.
Speaking at the report's launch in Tokyo, UNFPA Executive Director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, said: "People everywhere must age with dignity and security, enjoying life through the full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms."
"More action needs to be taken to achieve this for all people; new poverty goals must not exclude older people," he said.
Indeed, this is especially relevant with regards to palliative care. The report shows that access to effective pain medications is lacking in many countries and millions worldwide lack any access to palliative care. Although research has shown that between 2006 and 2011 there have been gains made in palliative care in Africa, in many countries access to treatment for severe pain even at the end of life is needlessly lacking.
The report also includes the stories of 1,300 older men and women who participated in group discussions in 36 countries around the world. Richard Blewitt, the chief executive officer of HelpAge International, said: "We must commit to ending the widespread mismanagement of ageing. Global and national action plans are needed to create a pathway to transform the explosive number of people over 60 to become growth drivers and value creators. By revolutionising our approach and investing in people as they age we can build stronger, wealthier societies."
"Ageing is a lifelong process that does not start at age 60. Today's young people will be part of the two billion-strong population of older persons in 2050," said Dr Osotimehin, "This report shows that, with actions taken now, we can all benefit from the longevity dividend- increasingly in the developing world - now and in the future."
For more information and to follow the organization’s global advocacy work, visit the HelpAge International website.
Click here to watch a video commissioned by HelpAge International on Ageing in the twenty-first century.