Today, the population aged 60 years and over is the fastest growing of any age group, and is growing at a rate faster than any time in history. This great demographic shift is occurring all over the world, transforming our communities in dramatic ways. At the start of 2012, one quarter of the population in developed countries was over the age of 60, and in the European Union, the number of people over 60 years of age will rise by two million every year3. It is dif!cult to de!ne exactly when a person becomes ‘old’. The WHO approaches ageing from a ‘life-course perspective, assuming that ageing begins from the moment we are born. However, populations must be divided into age groups for statistical purposes, and for analysis sake, an ‘older person’ is considered to be 60 years of age or older 4. In some contexts, such as less developed countries, older age is considered to be 50 years and above, to account for lower life expectancy in these regions. Irrespective of the age used in different scenarios, it must be recognized that chronological age is not a precise marker of ageing, as health status, levels of independence and employment status vary among older people of the same age. Ageing is a heterogeneous process. As people age, they can become prone to a multitude of risks in their biological, social and psychological lives. Risks related to ageing are exacerbated by negative stereotypes and attitudes about getting older. As a society, we are all affected by the vulnerabilities that older people experience, at increasingly larger numbers: growing older populations strain our health and social systems, as the ratio of those dependent on it to those who contribute !nancially to it grows. While presenting humanity with a unique challenge, ageing populations are also an opportunity: this age group is growing larger and living longer than any point in history. This means that now more than ever can the productive capacities of older people be utilized. Older people contribute !nancially to society, as taxpayers and consumers. Even after retirement, they can continue to play roles in social, cultural and civic life as volunteers, mentors, opinion leaders or decision-makers, extending well past their working years. Such activity can also reduce the vulnerabilities of older people, improving their own health and well-being. While a seemingly gradual phenomenon, action on ageing populations could not start any sooner. To take advantage of the possibilities and positive opportunities our older populations present us requires the society as a whole to change the mind set and act. In this report, the IFRC calls upon governments, National Societies, partners and donors, as well as communities, families and individuals, to harness the potential of our ageing populations – today and in to the future.
Dé Domhnaigh, 1 Meitheamh, 2014
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