linking Population, Poverty and Development

Population Ageing: A Celebration and a Challenge

Population ageing is a demographic revolution affecting the entire world. For the first time in history, our global population will no longer be young, thanks to lower fertility, increased child survival and better health.

Population ageing is happening in all regions and in countries at various levels of development. It is progressing fastest in developing countries, including in countries with large populations of young people.

No country is exempt: Seven of the 15 countries with more than 10 million older people are in the developing world. By 2050, another 15 countries currently classified as 'developing' are expected to have 10 million or more older people. This generation is growing at a faster rate than the total population in almost all regions of the world.

Ageing is a triumph of development. People are living longer because of better nutrition, sanitation, medical advances, health care, education and economic well-being.

Although population ageing poses social and economic challenges to individuals, families and societies, with the right policies in place, societies can prepare for an ageing world, address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities.

Older persons need not be a burden: The countries of the future will be those who move to unlock the untapped growth of the 21st century — the rising numbers of older people, as well as their wisdom, energy and experience.

Number of people aged 60 or over: World, developed and developing countries, 1950-2050

graph showing the growth of the aging population

The Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing

The Second World Assembly of Ageing, held in Madrid, Spain in 2002, marked a turning point in international policy debate and action on ageing. For the first time in history, ageing was acknowledged not simply as an issue of social security and welfare, but of overall development and economic policy.

Responding to growing concern over the speed and scale of global ageing, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted by consensus the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing to guide Governments, the United Nations and civil society to face the challenges and fulfil the enormous potential of population ageing. Critical to its success was the promotion of a positive approach to ageing. It stressed the opportunity for older persons to contribute to development, with older persons embraced as a resource, rather than in need of care and support. Its overall objective was to create a 'society for all' in which 'persons everywhere are able to age with security and dignity and to continue to participate in their societies as citizens with full rights'.

Ten Years after Madrid

Ten years on, Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge 2012 asks: what has changed? The culmination of a three-year collaboration between UNFPA and HelpAge International, this landmark report, which launches on 1 October, offers, for the first time, an insight into the changing situation of older persons across the world.

With contributions from over 20 United Nations entities including theUnited Nations Regional Commissions, international non-governmental organizations and 1,300 older people from 36 countries, this report uses fresh and in-depth evidence to provide detailed policy guidance that builds on the recommendations of the Madrid Plan. With the voices of older people around the world at its heart, it supports the shift to more age-inclusive development and makes an urgent case for an increase in the prominence of ageing in policy making.

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