Chiang Mai, Thailand / Tehran, Iran, 23 October 2018 - With population ageing already a reality for many countries across Asia and the Pacific, and on the not too distant horizon for many others, Governments, United Nations partners and civil society stakeholders are meeting to discuss the issue from a variety of angles at the HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference 2018 from 23-25 October in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.
“This year, our biennial conference carries the theme ‘Family, Community and the State in an Ageing Society’,” said Eduardo Klien, Director of the HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Office based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “This recognises that addressing the complexities of population ageing requires a multi-dimensional approach, involving not only governments but all of society, if we are to successfully - and urgently - tackle the challenges and maximize the opportunities of these rapid demographic changes.”
Asia and the Pacific is currently home to over half the world’s people over 60 years of age. Globally, the number of older persons, rising at an unprecedented rate, is forecast to exceed 2 billion by 2050. By then, nearly two-thirds of the world’s older people – close to 1.3 billion – will be living in Asia-Pacific, and one in four people across the region is expected to be over 60. In North-east and East Asia, this proportion will be more than one in three people. Women currently constitute some 54% of the older demographic in Asia-Pacific, but represent an even greater majority, 61%, of the ‘oldest old’ population (80 years and older).
“Throughout history, responsibility for older persons has traditionally assumed to lie with the family, but as family structures change this assumption is changing as well,” explained Bjorn Andersson, Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Asia-Pacific Regional Office in Bangkok, which is supporting the conference. “Many governments and societies have begun redefining what ageing truly means, exploring ways in which older people can better relate to their families, communities and the state via policies that seek to achieve an optimal socioeconomic equilibrium. This means enabling older persons to continue to contribute to society for as long as they are willing and able, along with providing necessary support systems and safety nets.”
The HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference will flesh out its theme from three main perspectives, including income security in old age, long term care and social inclusion.
“For Iran, as the host country, the conference and its theme are particularly timely,” said Dr Leila Joudane, UNFPA Representative in the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Although more than 80 percent of older Iranian people are still living with their family members, the number of older persons who are living without a spouse or any family member has increased during recent decades. According to the latest government data, nearly 50 percent of older women are living in households without a spouse, the majority of them heads of households and among the lowest income categories. The gender dimensions of ageing are significant, not only in Iran but across the Asia-Pacific region.”
The conference will bring together around 300 participants from more than 20 countries across Asia-Pacific and from Iran, including experts, representatives of civil society and international organisations, government officials and other representatives, policymakers, and, perhaps most importantly, older people themselves.
“At the core of the conference are older persons - whom we know in our own lives as our grandparents, parents and society elders,” concluded Eduardo Klien.
“They need to be independent, active persons, not objects of decisions made by others, but active participants in any strategies, policies or solutions proposed that would impact their lives as well as those of future generations.”