- Title: VARIOUS: Second World Assembly on aging conference opens in Madrid
- Date: 8th April 2002
- Summary: (L!1) MADRID, SPAIN (APRIL 8, 2002) (REUTERS) SCU UN FLAGS AND SPANISH FLAGS OUTSIDE UN WORLD ASSEMBLY FOR AGEING SCU (SOUNDBITE) (English) EDGAR ADAMS, 70-YEAR-OLD DELEGATE FROM THE CARIBBEAN ISLAND OF SAINT VINCENT SAYING: "What is necessary now is a global approach, unless there is a global approach, little pockets of communities all over the world can no longer tackle all the problems in isolation. The world itself has become a global village and when you are fighting for your little space in the global village unless you tackle the problems of the village together then you begin to isolate yourself."
- Reuters ID: LVA8RUAUAP9N1EX8G4YLQSV09J3J
- Location: MADRID, SPAIN/ NEW YORK, UNITED STATES/ UNKNOWN LOCATION, AFRICA/ UNKNOWN LOCATION, BRAZIL
- Country: Spain
- Duration: 00:00:30
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations
- Story Text: As the West struggles to face up to the costs of caring for its greying population, Spain is billing Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid as a chance to help developing nations avert a crisis.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a major international conference on Monday (April 8) the world must start preparing now for an explosion in numbers of old people that will put the most severe strain on poor countries.
The world is undergoing an unprecedented demographic transformation, Annan said, opening a week-long World Assembly on Ageing in the Spanish capital.
In the next 50 years, the number of people above 60 years of age will nearly quadruple, growing from about 600 million to almost two billion people, United Nations figures show.
In less than 50 years from now -- for the first time in history -- the world will contain more people over 60 than under 15, Annan said.
Ageing populations risk putting strain on the world's health, social security and pension systems as the proportion of people of working age shrinks.
The issue of ageing populations is commonly thought to be a problem mainly for rich European countries, which are seeing elderly populations balloon as a result of increased life expectancy and falling birth rates.
But experts predict the same trends in many developing nations, adding to the crushing problems of poverty and development they have to deal with.
"Over the next 50 years, the older population of the developing world is expected to multiply by four. Ageing is definitely no longer just a first world issue. What was a footnote in the 20th century is on its way to becoming a dominant theme in the 21st," Annan said, adding that the world had to start preparing now for the challenges posed by a growing older population.
The Second U.N. World Assembly on Ageing, held 20 years after the first one in Vienna, is expected to adopt a revised plan of action to confront the ageing issue.
The plan is expected to seek changes in policies towards old people and to call for them to be able to participate fully in the economic, political and social lives of their societies.
A report on the State of the Worlds Older people, produced by British-based advocacy group HelpAge International, said discrimination and lack of legislation on ageing, together with a worsening economy, AIDS and conflict meant older Africans were denied access to basic rights and services and lived in poverty.
It said the Asia/Pacific region, home to more than half of the world's 600 million older people, was the most rapidly ageing region. Hasina Chaklader, delegate from Bangladesh, said that they are trying in their country to get back to traditional society where the families were taking care of older people but because of the poverty of her country it was a very difficult goal.
For Edgar Adams, a 70-year-old delegate from Saint Vincent, in the Caribbean, it is necessary a global approach to the problem.
"What is necessary now is a global approach, unless there is a global approach, little pockets of communities all over the world can no longer tackle all the problems in isolation.
The world itself has become a global village and when you are fighting for your little space in the global village unless you tackle the problems of the village together then you begin to isolate yourself," Adams said.
But much has changed since the previous assembly 20 years ago in Vienna. Improved health care and nutrition mean people these days are living longer while choosing to have fewer children.
The growth in ageing populations in Europe has already rung alarm bells over how to sustain state pension systems, draining the resources of state coffers. European Union nations agreed at a March summit in Barcelona to try and raise the average retirement age in the bloc by five years, to 63.
The EU aims that at least half of those aged between 55 and 65 should be in work by 2010, compared with around a third now.
Other means of boosting Europe's workforce to fund demands on its pension system were to encourage more women to work and encourage moderate flows of immigration.
But for 84-year-old Martina Bermejo all these EU new measures are not enough to tackle all the problems she has.
"We have a lot of problems here in Spain, a lot of them...but the main one is the money, we don't get enough money," she said.
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