With nearly eight percent of southeast Asia’s population above the age of 60 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Monday said it will draw global attention to ageing to highlight it as a rapidly emerging priority that most countries in the region have yet to address adequately.
The number of aged people will double by 2025 and triple by 2050, the global health body said ahead of World Health Day April 7.
“Older women outnumber and outlive older men. Gender discrimination and widowhood has a considerable impact on the health of elderly women,” said Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO’s Regional Director for South-East Asia.
“Poor nutrition in the womb leads to disease in adulthood. Preventing diseases through immunization, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyles will result in an elderly population that is a rich resource for families, communities and nations,” Plianbangchang added.
National policies to promote healthy ageing exist in Bangladesh, DPR (North) Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. But there is an urgent need to focus attention on issues such as economic effects of ageing on the health care system, ways of ensuring independence in old age, quality of life and health problems of elderly females and very old persons, the WHO says.
Sedentary lifestyle and habits such as smoking, poor diet have influenced the health outcomes in old age. The WHO expresses concern over changing social patterns where nuclear families are replacing joint families and the old and the infirm are often left at home.
“These changing patterns of society are now affecting the care of the old and very old persons at home. Healthy ageing requires a significant paradigm shift in providing care to the elderly,” the WHO said.
“Building an age-friendly society needs actions from sectors other than health such as education, employment, labour, finance, social security, transportation, justice, housing and rural-urban development. On World Health Day, WHO is urging policy-makers and partners to pay urgent attention to ageing and health,” the WHO concluded.