IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Leaving no older woman behind

1st October, 2020 Society

How the lives of the elderly, especially women, can be improved significantly

Impacts of COVID-19 on lives of elderly

  • It harms are inflicts on older persons who face multiple and compounding threats, including being
    • physically more vulnerable than others,
    • at greater peril of the impacts of social isolation, and
    • At significant risk from the likely long-lasting socioeconomic shocks of the pandemic.
  • In the Asia-Pacific region, Women, who generally outlive men, constitute the majority of older persons in the region, but represent an even greater majority of the ‘oldest old’ population of 80 years and over.

A vulnerable category of people

  • Even before the COVID-19 crisis, elderly women in a majority of Asia-Pacific countries were facing significant challenges, traditional societies, nuclear family-oriented patterns, fragmented family structures.
  • This cause older women living alone, face poverty and lack family and other socioeconomic support.
  • The majority of older people do not have reliable and sustained access to a caregiver.
  • Facing non-existent or only minimal safety nets, many have already slid into poverty during the pandemic or are on the cusp of doing so.
  • The pandemic has brought into focus the urgent need for both governments and civil society to address the complex demographic shift of population ageing, with strategic solutions.
  • To do so successfully, we need a life cycle approach to healthy ageing, with particular emphasis on girls and women, firmly grounded in gender equality and human rights.

Plans in place

  • If there are better policies, more resilient social systems and gender equality, the lives of older people, especially women, can be improved significantly.
  • This would also allow societies to harness the valuable experiences of older persons as they age.
  • In fact, the commitment to advance a better world in an ageing society has already been articulated by the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.
    • This agreement commends the development of evidence-based policies that help create “a society for all ages”.
  • In addition, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals underscore the basis of this approach to healthy ageing.
  • There is need to collectively priorities greater action, funding and implementation.
  • Mandate in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) incorporates the need to enable and strengthen the self-reliance of older persons.
  • The ICPD Programme of Action is our foundation, and our guiding principle.
  • UNFPA is committed to helping governments in full partnership with civil society and communities.
  • This is the decade of Healthy Ageing as well as the Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs.
  • As Asia-Pacific, with the rest of the world, seeks to ‘build back better’ from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us seize this moment to transform the challenge of population ageing into an opportunity.