The World Health Organization is worried about segregation targeting older persons, stressing that this has adverse effects on their mental and physical health, according to a report published on Thursday. “It is time to stop defining people by their age. It will result in more prosperous, equitable and healthier societies,” John Beard, WHO Director of Ageing and Life Course, said at a press conference in Geneva.
The WHO’s ‘Global Report on Ageism and Health’ is based on a survey in which more than 83,000 adults (persons over the age of 18 years) in 57 countries took part. Asked whether they thought older persons are given enough respect these days, 60% of respondents answered in the negative. The percentages were significantly higher in high-income countries.
This survey shows that “ageism is very common,” Beard said, stressing that older persons should not be forced into retirement. WHO’s Coordinator of Ageing and Life Course, Alana Officer, noted that “society will benefit from this ageing population if we all age more healthily”.
Older persons who feel they are a burden risk depression and isolation, according to the WHO report. It noted that a recent study showed that older persons with negative outlooks live on average 7.5 years less than those who are positive.
“Take a stand against ageism”, i.e. segregation and discrimination against a person because of their age, will be the motto of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on October 1 by WHO.
The number of people worldwide aged 60 years and over will double by 2020 and will top the two billion mark 30 years later. In 2050, one person in five will be over the age of 60 years, and 80% will have low or medium incomes.