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Population ageing is a significant challenge to all Commonwealth countries

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Here in the UK the countdown is underway for one of the most important political summits of the decade. In April 2018 the UK is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit. This is only the third time in the history of the Commonwealth that the biennial summit has taken place in this country. Coming in the middle of the two year Brexit negotiations the UK is looking to redefine its place in the world and key to this is its relationship with the 52 nations that are members of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Association for the Ageing – CommonAge was founded in 2013 in order to promote the interests of older people across the Commonwealth, and to promote the agenda of an all age friendly Commonwealth. A Commonwealth that brings together all generations, tackles ageism and ensures that older people in all countries are able to live healthy and fulfilling lives in their senior years and where their dignity, their human rights and their capacity to contribute to civil society is recognised and valued.
As one of its initial projects, and with generous sponsorship support from founding members the Abbeyfield Society, Anchor Trust, St Monica Trust and Age International, CommonAge commissioned the Oxford University Institute for Population Ageing to undertake a research report on “Ageing in the Commonwealth”. The study is now completed and the report has been published. The evidence that the report presents demonstrates that population ageing is a significant challenge to all Commonwealth countries, even though the issue is not widely recognised in many developing nations with predominantly young populations.
The research project has confirmed that even in the poorest and slowest ageing Commonwealth countries, where a majority of deaths are still caused by communicable diseases, poor nutrition, and childbirth, a large and growing proportion of the population is surviving to ages where they are more likely to die from chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) than anything else. Longevity is increasing globally thanks to improved healthcare systems but older people are experiencing increasing frailty and are not necessarily enjoying their extra years of life.
Despite the enormous diversity in population dynamics across the countries of the Commonwealth, they share one important common trend: the older population is set to grow more quickly than the total population. The only exceptions to this are Lesotho and Mozambique, two of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have been most severely affected by HIV/AIDS.

In the majority of Commonwealth countries, the absolute size of older population will increase by at least 100% over the next 25 years. These are mostly low- and middle- income countries.

On the positive side most countries in the Commonwealth now have some form of social pension, including those that are still faced by extreme poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa, countries that have been hard hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic have led the way in this respect.
This is the first study of its kind designed to examine ageing within the Commonwealth. It will provide a baseline against which future progress and development can be measured and regularly reported at future Commonwealth summits.
While focussing specifically on the Commonwealth, CommonAge has taken its lead from the World Health Organisation “World Report on Ageing and Health” published in 2015. From this emerged the WHO “Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health (2016-2020)”. This points the way forward for all countries of the world and challenges all governments to prepare health and social care systems for a “Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030”.
Chairman of CommonAge Andrew Larpent explains: “When we commissioned the research, we had two main aims: to explore the ways in which challenges for older people differ across the Commonwealth countries, and to look at the ways in which governments and societies are responding.”
“We want to highlight examples of good practice and innovation as well as the difficulties faced by different countries in policy implementation,” he continues. “The report will provide a baseline assessment of the status of older people and the support currently available to them from governments and non-state organisations across all 52 countries of the Commonwealth.”
One of the challenges for researchers is the diversity of the Commonwealth countries. “They are scattered over most of the globe in very different climatic zones, they include the second most populous country in the world – India – and several island states with fewer than I million people in their populations,” says Mr Larpent.
The presentation of the research report will take place as part of the inaugural “Commonwealth Elders’ Forum”, 16-18 April 2018, at the Wokefield Park Conference Centre, Berkshire.

Organised in partnership with the National Care Forum (NCF) and in association with the other peak bodies, the “Commonwealth Elders’ Forum” is part of the “Ageing in Common: An International Perspective” event and will include many internationally recognised speakers and delegates from across The Commonwealth.

The event also offers the opportunity to participate in workshops, make valuable connections, contribute to the creation of an “Action Plan for Ageing in the Commonwealth” and help prepare all Commonwealth countries for the WHO “Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030”.

For more details about this event visit www.commage.org

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