Asia-Pacific Leads the Way in Reviewing Progress Towards “Society for All Ages”

Macao Meeting on Ageing Calls for More Actions as the Region Gets Mixed Scorecard

The Asia-Pacific region has a mixed record in tackling the challenges posed by population ageing; and governments need to make more efforts to create a “society for all ages”. The message comes from a regional meeting on ageing which ended today in Macao, China.

The meeting was organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), with support from the government of Macao Special Administrative Region of China. It brought together about 100 high level representatives from governments, non-governmental organizations and the academia from 26 countries, and from various United Nations bodies, including the UN Population Fund, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization.

The three-day meeting reviewed the progress made in Asia-Pacific in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), a landmark document adopted five years ago at the Second World Assembly on Ageing.

“Over the past five years, attention accorded to population ageing and efforts to align national actions with the MIPAA evolved considerably in the region”, commented Keiko Osaki, Chief, Population and Social Integration Section, Emerging Social Issues Division, ESCAP. “Some of the major achievements in the region are the strengthening of institutional arrangements and the establishment of national focal points on ageing”, she said.

Many countries in the region have developed long-term plans and policies, and have allocated funds to deal with ageing and the requirements of old age. Yet many challenges remain. Income security in old age, to raise public awareness of the benefits of active ageing, and inter-generational solidarity are among the primary concerns of many countries.

“One of the critical issues to be addressed is finding ways to match the desire of many older persons to remain productive with the actual employment opportunities available for them. Many countries also recognize the impact of modernization, migration and changing family structures on families’ ability to care for older persons”, said Ms. Osaki. “Universal social security coverage is virtually non-existent in the region and wherever it exists, its sustainability is being questioned”.

Besides taking stock of the progress achieved in the region, the meeting put forward concrete steps to improve social protection and increase access to social services for older persons, especially those underprivileged.

The Macao Outcome Document, adopted by the meeting before closing, paves the way for further progress in three priority areas; older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age, and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

Among others, the Document urges governments in the region to ensure sustainable and adequate retirement income and – in collaboration with other key development partners -- to raise awareness among younger generations about life-long preparation for old age and retirement, including in the areas of health and financial security. The need for data collection, research and studies focused on elderly issues is also highlighted in the Document.

Acknowledging the specific context of the Asian and Pacific region and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the Macao Outcome Document encourages the establishment of training programmes to further strengthen the capacities of informal caregivers and promotes the concept of “ageing in place”, through the development of age-friendly physical environments. The Document also urges governments to promote social and economic equalities for all ages so that older persons, especially women living in poverty, have universal access to health care.

“It is essential for governments in the region to start planning ahead for the socio-economic implications of ageing societies, with the understanding of the changing demands and needs of the future elderly population”, commented Thelma Kay, Director of the Emerging Social Issues Division of ESCAP in her concluding remarks.

Asia and the Pacific is the first region in the world to undertake review of the implementation of the Madrid Plan which has been requested by the United Nations Commission for Social Development. All regional reviews are expected to conclude in 2008.

Home to over 60 per cent of the world population, the Asian and Pacific region now accounts for 410 million older persons. This number is expected to increase to 733 million in 2025 and to a staggering 1.3 billion by 2050.

For more information about the Meeting, please visit http://www.unescap.org/esid/psis/meetings/AgeingMipaa2007/index.asp