Older people are left out of development too often, despite the fact that the global population is ageing fast. The new global goals for development - the Sustainable Development Goals - have the potential to change this and improve the lives of women and men of all ages around the world.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a landmark agreement following on from the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). This universal agenda sets ambitious new standards to tackle extreme poverty, inequality and climate change and will guide governments and international development actors in their work from 2016-2030.
Leave no one behind
Imagine what the world will look like in 2030. By then there are projected to be 1.3 billion older people, making up 16 per cent of the total population, with most living in developing countries. Older people are often active members of their communities, but can also be vulnerable and in need of help.
The SDGs clearly identify older people as an integral part of international development. The goals and targets, such as Goal 3 - "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" - provide clear guidance to governments and other development actors that older people must be taken into account.
Our challenge now is to ensure governments follow through on these commitments, by putting these goals into practice and measuring them in a way that is fully inclusive of women and men of all ages.
We are working to ensure that, guided by the SDGs, governments will:
Protect older people’s rights
We are pleased that the SDGs are based on an understanding of human rights, and we will work to ensure that governments and other actors understand the issues older people face in claiming their rights to health care, social protection, employment and education. Currently older people’s needs are often neglected and services are often inaccessible.
Make older people count
To be truly effective, all relevant goals and targets within the framework must be measured for people at all stages of their lives.
Governments must break down data by age, as well as by gender and disability, to give an accurate picture of who is being reached.
Currently much of the available data excludes people over the age of 49, making it difficult to track the impact of development programmes on older people and how they still need to be supported.
If there is to be a true ‘data revolution’, as has been called for by the UN Secretary General, data must be collected, disaggregated, analysed and disseminated for people of all ages.
Ensure longer lives are healthier
Although living longer is development’s greatest success story, many people are simply living more years in poor health.
Older people are more likely to experience non-communicable – chronic – diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, heart disease and dementia, and often they experience more than one of these at the same time. Despite this, the focus of efforts to improve health in developing countries has been on tackling communicable and infectious diseases like malaria, TB and HIV.
As populations age, governments need to shift their focus to enable older people to manage their multiple health conditions, enabling them to continue contributing as workers, carers and valued members of the community. Achieving the health goal within the framework should maximize healthy life expectancy at all stages of life, from the cradle to the grave.
Insist on social protection for people of all ages
Only one in four older people in the world currently have access to a pension, and some have no income at all. Poverty can only be eradicated if people of all ages are able to access decent work and are covered by social protection.
The SDGs include a commitment to ensuring national social protection systems that also benefit the poor and vulnerable are implemented, and this could provide greater access to income security for older people.
Stamp out inequality
The SDGs recognise that inequality is a cross-cutting issue for all people. The challenge remains, however, to recognise that inequalities are experienced throughout the life course, and are often compounded in old age, such as gender inequality.
Inequality experienced in older age has an impact on families, communities and economies, as older people often play a central role in caring for family members and others, and work for as long as they are able.