Growing number of seniors will alter priorities.
UNITED NATIONS - A report released Monday by the U.N. Population Fund warns that Japan, the only country with 30 percent of its population over 60, will have lots of company by 2050. More than 60 other countries, from China to Canada to Albania, will be in the same boat.
The report urges governments to summon the political will to protect the elderly and ensure they can age with good health and dignity. Discrimination toward and poverty among the aged are still far too prevalent in many countries, it says, even in the relatively wealthy industrialized nations.
The problem is worse for women, whose access to jobs and health care is often limited throughout their lives, along with their rights to own and inherit property.
"More must be done to expose, investigate and prevent discrimination, abuse and violence against older persons, especially women who are more vulnerable," the report says, calling on countries to "ensure that aging is a time of opportunity for all."
"We need bold political leadership," said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the Population Fund. "Aging is manageable, but first it must be managed."
In some countries, such as Latvia and Cyprus, about half of those over 60 are living in poverty. And even in highly industrialized countries such as Japan the elderly struggle to get some services.
The U.N. report said policy discussions of all kinds must include a consideration of problems facing the aging if mankind is to reap a "longevity benefit" from people's longer life expectancies.
Governments should build safety nets to ensure older people have income security and access to health and social services, it said.