From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Madrid event to define new strategy for aging population
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 13:34:08 -0500
Sept. 28, 2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York
NEW YORK (UMNS) - Twenty years after the United Nations created a strategy
to deal with issues facing an aging population, it will host a forum to
expand and update that plan.
The Second World Assembly on Aging, meeting April 8-12 in Madrid, Spain,
also is expected to define a new long-term strategy for a demographic shift
characterized by increasing proportions of older people.
Susanne Paul, a United Methodist who is founder and president of Global
Action on Aging, said that demographic shift, which "raises a lot of social
and economic policy questions for governments," is what makes the Madrid
event so important.
A U.N. report on population aging in 1999 shows that by 2050, the number of
people age 60 years old or older is projected at almost 2 billion, marking
the first time in history that the 60-plus group will overtake the number of
children age 14 years and under. Because of dramatic improvements in life
expectancy, people age 80 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the
older population, expected to reach 19 percent of the 60-plus group by 2050.
More than half of the world's older population resides in Asia. In addition,
"the majority of people over 60 now live in developing countries," Paul
noted. Because of that, the Madrid assembly will focus more on economic and
The volatile world atmosphere following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on
New York and Washington also could impact discussion of social protection
issues for an aging population. "If governments and people feel that they
must put their public monies into armaments or into troops or into the
military establishment to be safe, then there will be less money for human
needs," she explained.
Global Action on Aging, which is based at the United Methodist-owned Church
Center for the United Nations, is leading the organization of the social
protection part of the forum for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which
will meet April 5-9 in conjunction with the Madrid assembly. Issues to be
covered include health care, income support and age discrimination.
Global Action also will work jointly with the International Labor
Organization regarding forum presentations on pension issues and income
support, according to Paul.
She expects religious denominations and organizations, many of which already
provide a variety of services to the elderly, to be major participants in
Despite the demographic changes that have occurred since the First World
Assembly on Aging, held in Vienna in 1982, the United Nations has recorded
some progress from its member states. Among the findings:
7 Most developed countries now have well-established national
coordinating mechanisms on aging.
7 Developing countries have better health care provisions for older
7 Graduate studies in gerontology were created in some universities
and more research has been done on aging.
7 Information on aging has been incorporated in educational programs
and promoted through the media.
7 Some countries have established types of pension or social security
7 Governments have promoted policies to support employment for older
7 Nongovernmental organizations contribute to the aging issue through
advocacy and development assistance.
In 1999, the United Nations introduced the concept of a society for all ages
during its International Year of Older Persons. That concept will be
reinforced in Madrid through such priorities as increasing the social
inclusion and political representation of older people; creating solidarity
among generations; and promoting life-course planning for better health and
well-being in the senior years.
"I think we will see a lot of intergenerational support for caring and
helping people develop their talents at all ages of life," Paul said.
The Web site for Global Action on Aging, www.globalaging.org, has
information both on the Madrid assembly and on various aspects of the aging
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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