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Older woman smiles, Haiti

It is a simple idea, but one with profound consequences. The need for having better information about the lives of the people we want to help is at the heart of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Governments have committed to disaggregating data - making sure that the information that is gathered makes visible different groups in society so we can better monitor the effectiveness of our actions.

Better data will help older people

Nowhere is this more important than with older people and gathering data on later life.

International statistics have long side-lined older people and there are many challenges to overcome to better understand how to improve older people’s lives:

  • there is poor awareness of what information already exists about older people
  • information that does exist does not disaggregate by age in higher age groups – older people are often clumped together under headings like 60+ or 70+
  • the most widely used data gathering surveys do not cover older age groups and often stop gathering information at age 49 for women or 52 for men
  • older women and men are often not asked directly about their lives, but the information comes from other members of the household who may not fully understand what an older person is experiencing

Improving the way we capture and analyse data about older women and men is fundamental for achieving one of the SDGs’ core principles: Leave No One Behind.

At its simplest, this means ensuring that every person has a fair opportunity in life; that those who are furthest behind, have the least opportunities and are most excluded will be prioritised; and that every person counts and will be counted. Older people are often among the most marginalised and vulnerable in society.

DFID data disaggregation action plan

This is why we are proud to be working alongside the UK Government, which is championing the need for better disaggregation of data by age, gender, disability and location.

DFID has launched its Data Disaggregation Action Plan that sets out an ambitious agenda for improving the way we gather and analyse data on older people and other groups.

This will lead to better programmes, spending money more effectively and allowing older people themselves to hold their governments to account.

This article was published January 2017

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