Highlights Vol 24, No. 11 - November 2020

The place we call home matters when we grow old

Our world is rapidly growing older. As we age, where and how we live and what support we are given, matter greatly for our health and wellbeing. Living arrangements and family support for older persons have become increasingly important for policymakers, especially in countries at advanced stages of population ageing. Understanding these links also matters for the world’s pledge to leave no one behind.

The world’s population is ageing due to increasing life expectancy and falling levels of fertility. According to the latest estimates from UN DESA’s Population Division, the share of population aged 65 years or over is expected to increase globally from 9.3 per cent in 2020 to around 16 per cent in 2050. Since women on average live longer than men, they comprise the majority of older persons, especially at advanced ages.

The living arrangements of older people determine their economic well-being as well as their physical and psychosocial health and life satisfaction. Older persons living alone or in institutions have higher overall mortality risks than those living with a spouse or other family members.

Where and how older persons reside also has important economic, social and environmental implications. In particular, the number of independent households affects the demand for housing, social services, energy, water and other resources.

As the world is facing the threat of COVID-19, older persons are at much higher risk of dying from the virus than younger persons. Advanced age and the presence of underlying health conditions affecting the cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems are associated with an increased risk of severe illness or death.

Mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the older population will require continued efforts to curb the spread of the virus and to put in place measures to protect the most vulnerable segments of the population — for example, older persons with pre-existing conditions and those who reside in institutions — from exposure to the disease.

Keeping the promise to leave no one behind means that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be achieved for all segments of society and at all ages, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable, including older persons.

Get the latest trends on ageing from UN DESA’s World Population Ageing 2020 Highlights.

Photo: UN DESA/Karoline Schmid

Everyone included – championing social inclusion

“People want social and economic systems that work for everyone,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said earlier this summer. “The response to the pandemic, and to the widespread discontent that preceded it, must be based on a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal that create equal opportunities for all and respect the rights and freedoms of all.”

But we still have a long way to go. Even before COVID-19 started ravaging nations across the globe, the World Social Report 2020 confirmed that inequality has increased in most developed countries and remains very high in developing countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has now turned into a multi-faceted crisis, affecting people across regions. The virus has exposed the weakness of national health systems due to many years of under-investment, inadequacy of social protection systems and the acute vulnerability of marginalized communities and people living in poverty. It has reaffirmed the need of putting people at the center of development to address existing inequality in opportunity and access to health care, quality education, food, sustainable energy, clean drinking water and sanitation, adequate housing, digital technologies, and employment.

Aspirations to ‘place people at the centre of development, ensuring full participation by all’ are not new. They were shaped 25 years ago when the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and its Programme of Action were adopted at the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) in Copenhagen. Guiding multilateral action on social development ever since, the Declaration represented a unique consensus on three key objectives: eradicating poverty, promoting full and productive employment, and fostering social inclusion.

As this year marks the 25th anniversary of this landmark event, the international community has an opportunity to reset inclusive social policies and to help countries recover better and with greater resilience to meet future challenges.

UN DESA will celebrate the anniversary on 1 December 2020 with a high-level General Assembly event, which will enable actors to renew their commitments to social development in support of the global goals and the world’s pledge to leave no one behind.

Learn more about the event and anniversary here  and join us on social media using the hashtag #EveryoneIncluded.

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