Annan urges renewed action to plight of older persons on International Day

To mark the International Day of Older Persons, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on world leaders to make good on their promise to protect a growing population of people over 60 by empowering them in productive jobs, and eliminating the conditions that lead to poverty in old age. “We will not eradicate poverty, or achieve our other goals, without understanding how older persons – and women in particular – experience poverty,” Mr. Annan said in a statement ahead of the Day which is celebrated on 1 October. The Day underscores the commitment by Governments to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on ageing which recognizes that world leaders can help ease the plight of older persons by integrating both gender and age into the programmes that eradicate poverty, he added.Mr. Annan also called to mind the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing in which global leaders have agreed to empower older persons by keeping them in the workforce, or integrating them in productive societal functions.Much of the reason for the renewed emphasis on aging can be found in the numbers. A “remarkable demographic transition [is] under way [which] will result in the old and the young representing an equal share of the world’s population by mid-century,” said the Madrid report. Globally, the proportion of persons aged 60 years and older is to jump twofold between 2000 and 2050, from 10 to 21 per cent, while the number of children is projected to drop by a third, to 21 per cent, said the report. There will be a greater proportion of older women than men as well, with a current average of 88 men for every 100 women among those 60 and older, a number which is expected to drop in the future.In addition to providing for the needs of older persons as their numbers grow, they must be accommodated in productive functions because there will be fewer young people to do so, said Mr. Annan. “Older persons have already shown their commitment, their determination, and their drive to meet this challenge,” he said, but too often “they and their potential contributions are overlooked.”