Report of the Meeting of Senior Officials on a Policy Framework for Lifelong Preparation for Old Age
Bangkok, 7-10 May 1996
1. The Meeting of Senior Officials on a Policy Framework for Lifelong Preparation for Old Age was convened by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) at Bangkok from 7 to 10 May 1996.
2. The main purpose of the Meeting was to: (a) exchange national experiences and review existing legislation, policies, programmes and measures in Asia and the Pacific and their effectiveness with regard to lifelong preparation for old age; and (b) consider and adopt a policy framework for lifelong preparation for old age in Asia and the Pacific.
3. The Meeting was attended by representatives of the following ESCAP member countries: Bangladesh, People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
4. Representatives of the following United Nations bodies and specialized agencies were also in attendance: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Health Organization (WHO).
5. The following non-governmental organizations and other organizations were represented: Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD), HelpAge International (HAI), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and National Council on Social Welfare of Thailand (NCSWT).
II. OPENING OF THE MEETING
6. The Meeting was opened by Mr. Adrianus Mooy, Executive Secretary of ESCAP. In welcoming the participants, he drew their attention to the rapid ageing of the populations in Asia and the Pacific with the proportion of people aged 65 years and over representing about 48 per cent of the world total. The Executive Secretary noted the lack of attention that had generally been paid by the general public, including both young and older persons, to lifelong preparation for old age as well as the withering of the social support system traditionally provided by the family and the community.
7. The Executive Secretary emphasized the importance of and need for effective national preparatory measures for old age to guide lifelong preparation for old age by individuals, which should start in the earlier stages of life. He also noted the various resolutions and decisions adopted by the relevant international and regional meetings on the matter.
8. The Executive Secretary drew the attention of the participants to the major areas of lifelong preparation for old age, which included income security, health maintenance, education and other areas of concern which are vital for such lifelong preparatory measures.
9. The Executive Secretary noted the presence of senior policy makers from both developing and developed ESCAP countries, who brought with them different viewpoints and expertise and experience to the Meeting.
10. In concluding his statement, the Executive Secretary thanked the Government of Australia for providing generous funding support for the organization of the Meeting. He also thanked the representatives of the United Nations bodies and specialized agencies as well as of non-governmental organizations for their participation in the Meeting.
III. ELECTION OF OFFICERS
11. The Meeting elected the following bureau:
Chairperson: Mr. Ampol Singhakowin, Director General, Department of Public Welfare, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Thailand
Vice-Chairpersons: Ms. Vijeyalakshmy Jegarasasingam, Additional Secretary for Social Services, Ministry of Health, Highways and Social Services, Sri Lanka
Y. Bhg. Datin Hajjah Fauziah Bt. Haji Mohd. Ramly, Deputy Secretary General, Ministry of National Unity and Social Development, Malaysia
Rapporteur: Ms. Catalina L. Fermin, Officer In-charge/Assistant Bureau Director, Bureau of Disabled Persons Welfare, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippines
IV. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA
12. The Meeting adopted the following agenda:
1. Opening of the Meeting.
V. REGIONAL SITUATION ON LIFELONG PREPARATION FOR OLD AGE
13. The Meeting had before it document SD/DGS/LLPM/INF.1 entitled "Lifelong Preparation for Old Age in Asia and the Pacific: An Overview", which it used as a guide to its deliberations.
14. While acknowledging that the main purpose of the Meeting was to focus on lifelong preparatory measures for old age, it also discussed various measures and programmes for the current elderly. The Meeting noted that some developing ESCAP countries had already had clear-cut policies on older persons while others were in the process of either planning or formulating such policies. It reviewed the implementation of existing policies and the functioning of national bodies or agencies for older persons in the ESCAP region.
15. The Meeting was informed that in response to the recommendation of the World Assembly on Aging, many countries had set a National Day for the Elderly. Several countries had established National Committees or Councils for the Elderly which served as focal points for coordinating activities for older persons.
16. The Meeting observed that only a few countries had instituted lifelong preparatory measures for old age. It expressed appreciation that various countries had undertaken information and education campaigns to promote a more positive image of older persons and the involvement of the media to assist in altering the stereotype of older persons as frail, incapacitated and dependent. It also noted the move in some countries to consider older persons as partners in development and not merely as recipients of social services. In other countries, older persons were increasingly being involved in the care of children and youth, in inculcating values among the youth and in transmitting cultural traditions and practices to the younger generations.
17. The Meeting observed that various preparatory measures for old age were being undertaken, including pre-retirement seminars for employees where various topics were introduced, such as pension schemes, training for post-retirement employment, nutrition and diet, appropriate exercise and the like as well as saving for old age to reduce dependence on children and training of support groups.
18. The participants underscored the need for (a) monitoring and evaluation of existing programmes for older persons; (b) conduct of research; and (c) collection and disaggregation of demographic and socio-economic data on current and future older persons to serve as bases for the formulation of social development policies affecting older persons. Suggestions were made to review present legislation to do away with gender bias, to establish training programmes for children and youth on the care of older persons and to involve the media to alert the youth on their responsibility towards older persons, as well as to develop programmes that would assist older persons to remain active, involved and with a degree of independence.
19. The Meeting had before it a document titled "Lifelong Preparation For Old Age In Asia And The Pacific: a Draft Policy Framework" (SD/SO/LLPOA/1).
20. The Meeting considered that draft document and, having entered a number of amendments to it, unanimously adopted the Policy Framework for Lifelong Preparation for Old Age in Asia and the Pacific, as annexed to this report.
21. In adopting the Policy Framework, the following observations were made:
(a) All age groups throughout the life cycle should be taken into account when considering preparatory measures for old age, with particular emphasis being given to disparities related to gender and geographical (rural-urban) location of target groups;
(b) Lifelong preparation for old age should be viewed within long-term perspective, bearing in mind that demographic dynamics have to be maintained in order to achieve social and economic development. In view of declining fertility rates and the resulting changes in age structures, alterations would be required in the distribution of the social security burden in certain countries. The ultimate goal would be to have an integrated social insurance system;
(c) The informal sector, which has tended to be left largely out of consideration in the formulation of lifelong preparatory measures for old age in the ESCAP region, should be targeted. It was noted that women were the most vulnerable and formed the majority of the informal sector;
(d) Positive images of the ageing process should be projected; and
(e) The principle of full integration of older persons in the family or the community is to be adhered to whenever and wherever possible. Only in exceptional cases such as those of terminally ill older persons should the notion of hospitalization or institutionalization be countenanced;
VII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
22. In adopting the Policy Framework for Lifelong Preparation for Old Age, the Meeting adopted following recommendations for Governments of the region and for ESCAP:
23. Governments should:
(a) extend coverage of social security schemes to all;
(b) review existing national policies relating to lifelong preparation for old age and, as appropriate, formulate policy, enact legislation, adopt time-bound national implementation plans and regulations and develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms;
(c) establish or strengthen national coordination committees on lifelong preparation for old age to promote a continuing dialogue between government agencies and non-governmental organizations, private voluntary organizations and the private sector on policies, programmes and other matters relating to older persons. In addition to soliciting the participation of organizations of older persons, these committees should also seek the active involvement of youth and women in view of the important role they will play in lifelong preparation for old age;
(d) promote Research and Development (R&D) on issues related to lifelong preparation for old age;
(e) disseminate information on lifelong preparation for old age to all sections of the population;
(f) undertake measures to increase the number of specialists in geriatrics medicine;
(g) undertake measures to correct the negative attitude of some health care personnel towards older persons while promoting greater awareness of the special health needs of older persons through training of all levels of health care personnel.
24. ESCAP should:
(a) formulate, within the framework of the Agenda for Action on Social Development in the ESCAP Region, a regional action plan on lifelong preparation for old age, containing target-oriented, time-bound goals to provide guidance to ESCAP members and associate members in the formulation and implementation of national plans;
(b) convene a regional meeting of senior officials, in 1997 or in 1998, to provide a forum for information exchange and monitoring of implementation of national policies and programmes on lifelong preparation for old age. This meeting should also act as the regional preparatory meeting for the International Year of Older Persons in 1999;
(c) undertake relevant research, organize workshops and seminars and provide information and advisory services to strengthen the capabilities of Governments in dealing with issues relating to lifelong preparatory measures for old age.
VIII. ADOPTION OF THE REPORT
25. The Meeting adopted its report, including the Policy Framework for Lifelong Preparation for Old Age, on 10 May 1996.
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