building a society for all ages

Second World Assembly on Ageing Madrid, Spain 8 -12 April 2002

Training for elder care

The rapid pace of population ageing is posing various challenges to developing countries at a crucial stage in their development. Over the past few decades, governments have begun to realize the implications of population ageing within their own countries, and they have responded by creating care programmes and delivery services aimed at meeting the needs of older persons. But these services have not always produced the expected results.

According to the International Institute on Ageing, a primary reason behind this failure is that often the very people who are involved in providing these services lack the basic skills to carry out their roles competently. Older people have specific needs, and the people that care for them - doctors, social workers, nurses and others - need specific knowledge and training. Personnel are also needed to train older persons themselves how to better maintain their well-being and independence through self-care, health promotion and disease prevention.

The scarcity of trained caregivers to deal with the health, social and economic needs of an ageing population continues to be perhaps the most serious handicap faced by many countries. Yet the 1982 Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing stressed the need for training for those working in the various fields of ageing, and pointed out that to put the Plan itself into effect would fundamentally require trained personnel. No less than five other recommendations stress the importance of training and of having trained personnel.

But in spite of this long-standing recognition of the need for training, little attention has been given to developing effective training policies and programmes. The growing need for training far outweigh the resources available.


Recommendations from the 1982
International Plan of Action on Ageing

· Those who work with the elderly, at home or in institutions, should receive basic training for their tasks.

· Training in all aspects of gerontology and geriatrics should be encouraged and given prominence at all levels in all educational programmes.

· Intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations should take steps to have trained personnel in the field of ageing and should strengthen their efforts to disseminate information on ageing, particularly to the ageing themselves.

· An international programme for training should be created to complement national and regional training programmes that are relevant to the particular conditions in those countries and regions.

Governments today are facing a dual problem: their populations are ageing rapidly, especially in rural and remote areas and trained personnel and special services will be needed. However, they lack the basic resources and trained personnel to provide those services.

In 1987, to address this situation, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) recommended that the United Nations Secretary-General consider setting up an international institute, and on 9 October 1987 the United Nations signed an official agreement with the government of Malta to establish the International Institute on Ageing (INIA).

The Institute was inaugurated on 15 April 1988 by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. Throughout its 13 years of existence, the Institute has endeavoured to live up to its mandate: to fulfil the training needs of developing countries so that they will be better able to implement the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing.

In Malta, the Institute trains personnel through short-term and long-term training programmes in gerontology and geriatrics. It also works through a variety of local country programmes. It has acted as a practical bridge between developed and developing ountries in the area of information exchange, and is an advocate for advocacy to developing countries in matters concerning ageing and older persons.

This article was based on information provided by the International Institute on Ageing.

For further information, please contact:

International Institute on Ageing
117 St. Paul Street
Valletta, VLT 07, Malta
Fax: 356-230 248

For media queries, please contact:
United Nations Department of Public Information
Tel: (1 212) 963-0499

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information DPI/2264 March 2002

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