Ageing population doesn’t have to be a ‘time bomb,’ say experts
- 03 September 2014
CHIANG MAI, Thailand - The catastrophe predicted to result from the rapid ageing of Asian populations is far from inevitable, said experts at a regional conference being held this week in Thailand. Making changes to economic and health policies as well as mindsets can help countries head off disaster by minimizing the burdens and maximizing the contributions of older persons, noted attendees at the conference, which was organized by the HelpAge International with support from UNFPA and the European Union.
The numbers of older persons are rising sharply as life expectancies increase throughout the region. In countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia and Viet Nam, the population over age 60 will triple by 2050, while falling birth rates will result in fewer young workers entering the labour force. The growing health care and social support costs associated with ageing will pose tremendous challenges.
But there are also great opportunities, speakers at the conference emphasized.
Older people today are healthier and more active than in the past, making them a huge resource that countries must not waste, according to HelpAge Asia Regional Director Eduardo Klein. "The next few years are the time to act" to realize this potential, he said.
As life expectancy increases, these issues will have to be dealt with around the world. Ageing-related issues need more attention in the global framework being developed to follow the Millennium Development Goals, said Lubna Baqi, UNFPA Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
Conference attendees are also addressing flexible work in retirement, older farmers and demographic change, older volunteers as a potential resource including in emergencies and disaster preparedness, and intergenerational support at the household level.
– William A. Ryan