Latin America and the Caribbean is moving at a steady clip toward becoming an ageing region, which is why countries must foment public policies that empower and raise the visibility of older persons, promote their protagonism and value them in their dignity and integrity. So said the authorities present at today’s inauguration of the Fourth Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being held through Friday, June 30, in Asunción, Paraguay.
The gathering, organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Paraguay, was inaugurated by the Paraguayan Minister of Public Health and Social Welfare, Antonio Barrios; the Deputy Executive Secretary of the regional United Nations body, Antonio Prado; and Paraguay’s Deputy Minister of Public Health, María Teresa Barán.
During his speech, Minister Barrios emphasized the importance of respecting the human rights of older persons and confirmed the Paraguayan government’s commitment to keep working to address the challenges that an increase in the elderly population will bring.
ECLAC’s Deputy Executive Secretary recalled that population ageing is a global trend that is influencing the economy, development planning, social policies, families, communities, big cities and also indigenous villages. From the point of view of its economic and social implications, it may be the most important transformation of this era, he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister Barán called for working with older adults and planning for a decent ageing process.
This intergovernmental conference is taking place within the framework of the third cycle of the review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. Its chief aim is to assess the progress made toward fulfilling the commitments embraced by ECLAC’s member countries under the San José Charter on the Rights of Older Persons in Latin America and the Caribbean, adopted during the third Regional Intergovernmental Conference on Ageing, which was held in May 2012 in Costa Rica.
The Conference will also allow for identifying key actions for expanding the protection of the rights of older persons in the next five years, including those that facilitate the implementation of the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons.
At this gathering, ECLAC will present a position paper on Challenges to the Autonomy and Interdependent Rights of Older Persons. This report presents a detailed, elaborate assessment of discrimination and the implementation gaps in terms of rights during old age, which can and must be tackled with public policies and programs.
According to the document, which will be the central focus of the debates taking place at the conference, demographic ageing in Latin America and the Caribbean will be much faster than what is being recorded in currently developed countries, and the region’s structural socioeconomic conditions to confront this will be more limited – not only due to fewer resources, but also because of their unequal distribution.
Projections show that all of the region’s countries will be ageing by 2060, and 27 of the 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will have a higher proportion of older persons than of children under 15 years of age.
According to United Nations estimates, there are 76.3 million older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017, representing 11.8% of the regional population. By 2030, this population will rise to 121 million, thereby accounting for 17% of the region’s total population. Meanwhile, by 2060, older persons will make up 30% of the regional population, at around 234 million.
According to the report, female predominance among older persons will hold steady in the medium term: there are currently 122.7 older women for every 100 men.
This is due to women’s longer life expectancy at more advanced ages, but it is not synonymous with well-being and it hides significant inequalities and disadvantages, such as the persistence of gender income gaps during old age.
In addition, concerns remain regarding limited access to retirement or pension benefits and their low amounts, which do not cover the most important necessities of older persons who, in many cases, contribute the main household income.
Among the most frequent problems affecting older persons are the lack of long-term care provisions for the elderly; the lack of awareness regarding their reality and their rights; health, social security, discrimination and mistreatment.
The report also addresses emerging issues such as access to credit, end-of-life palliative care and dignified death.
The document calls on countries to implement existing human rights instruments to reverse negative trends and strengthen institutions so they can take on growing and diverse responsibilities. In addition to this, it indicates that more spaces must be created to boost the participation of older persons in the matters affecting them.