Population ageing in East and South-East Asia: current situation and emerging challenges

Population ageing in East and South-East Asia: current situation and emerging challenges

Asian governments must mainstream population ageing into all development polices and actions

There has been marked progress in the policy response to population ageing in countries of the ESEAR, particularly since the commemoration of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999 and the 2002 Madrid World Assembly on Ageing.

This report describes the current situation of population ageing, its causes and consequences and implications at the policy, programme and community level. It discusses the role UNFPA has played and how this can be expanded to assist countries in dealing with population ageing. The report also includes recommendations for future actions.

Almost all the 15 countries reviewed have put in place an institutional structure for dealing with issues relating to older persons and framed some relevant policies, plans or laws. Differences exist between countries both in their perception of and response to the emerging issues depending on their individual circumstances. More industrialised countries tend to assume a higher degree of government responsibility while less urbanised and industrialised countries tend to leave elderly care to the family, charities and informal channels. Welfare measures in most of the countries are still focused on the older persons living alone, having disabilities or having no assured means of income.

The report concludes with a set of recommendations, including:

  • special attention should be focused on the needs of women who form a majority of the older and oldest old populations. Gender mainstreaming should be a key consideration in the design of all schemes relating to older persons
  • recognition of vulnerable situation of older persons in rural areas, particularly in terms of the declining family support due to the out-migration of young rural adults
  • health facilities need equipping with medicines and equipment needed for diseases of old-age
  • strengthening of the capacity of the family as caregivers
  • provisions for institutional or community care for those without support in need of long term care
  • gainful employment for older persons, should be encouraged in the informal and formal sectors
  • increase the scope andcoverage of the state pension schemes, encourage the expansion of contributory private insurance plans and provide incentives for the development of traditional/indigenous community-based practices of ensuring social security
  • in emergencies, governments and Aid agencies should ensure that older persons are directly targeted in rescue, relief and recovery operations
  • issues relating to the impact of HIV/AIDS on older persons need addressing

Finally, Governments should undertake to dispel the negative attitudes towards ageing and older persons through measures such as media campaigns highlighting the contributions of older persons at the family, community and national levels. Teaching of respect for older persons and the inevitability of reaching old age to prepare younger generations to enterold age better prepared and with a positive attitude should be introduced in the curricula. Implementation of these recommendations will call for mainstreaming population ageing into all development polices, programmes and actions.