By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Asia-Pacific conference on population aging opens in Tehran

October 23, 2018

TEHRAN —HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Population Ageing kicked off in Tehran on Tuesday, with a main theme of “Family, Community and State in Ageing Societies”.

The three-day event is mainly focused on exchanging knowledge and experiences among countries to better grasp potential solutions to the issues related to population ageing and the needs of older persons.

The event is coordinated in a collaboration among the Ministry of Cooperative, Labor and Welfare, the State Welfare Organization of Islamic Republic of Iran, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Asia and Pacific Regional Office of the HelpAge International.

The conference was attended by Iranian Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey, Caretaker Minister of Cooperative, Labor and Welfare and director of the State Welfare Organization of Iran, as well as First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri. 

Moreover other high level Iranian officials, foreign missions representatives as well as 121 delegates from 28 countries including government ministers, non-government and civil society organizations, academics and researchers, and members of the media also attend the conference.

Various panels, plenary session, side events and parallel sessions are scheduled to be held over the three-day conference on issues such as the effects of the demographic change on older people and their families, finding ways to keep older persons at the center of the discussion, income sources, social inclusion and healthcare services for older persons, development of age-friendly societies, reducing loneliness for seniors, etc. 

‘Older persons can facilitate sustainable development’

Mohseni-Bandpey, Caretaker Minister of Cooperative, Labor and Welfare and director of the State Welfare Organization of Iran in his welcome remarks explained that older persons can play a key role in facilitating sustainable development of the country.

“The conference will hopefully set the scene for taking advantage of international experience in collaboration with HelpAge International and United Nations Population Fund, to manage the future of the ageing population and use the older persons’ support to accelerate development,” Mohseni-Bandpey restated. 

A survey on aging population is underway in Iran under the auspices of the UNFPA, which can be effective in planning for and serving the elderly, he highlighted. 

The National Secretariat Council of the Elderly, Farzanegan Foundation [an organization supporting older persons’ social and civil participation] are also cultivating the relation between the elderly and the government, he added.

He went on to say that the national document on older persons is also the roadmap showing the way for better planning for the elderly in the near future. 

‘Time to implement clear, effective and long-term policies to address population aging’

Health Minister Qazizadeh Hashemi also underscored the importance of formulating and implementing coherent, effective and long-term policies in no time soon to develop necessary social and economic infrastructure for the rapidly aging population. 

The elderly population will grow three-fold within the next 30 years in Iran, he said, adding that people aging 65 or more normally refer to the healthcare centers twice as much as other age groups and their healthcare costs are also three times more than other people. 

It is also worth noting that since these people are no longer working and have no income it is harder for them to meet their healthcare costs, he added.

The Health Minister further explained that currently the government and insurance companies cover up 90 to 95 percent of the older persons’ healthcare costs.

‘Civil society establishes ties between the elderly and governmental bodies’

In his opening speech First Vice-President Jahangiri, explained that the civil society can play an important role in establishing ties between older persons and governmental bodies. 

The political system and civil society power lies with the inclusion of the older persons in the community as the older persons have reached “perfection” and can be pretty much beneficial to the development of the society, Jahangiri suggested.

“While now the population of senior citizens stand at 7.4 million in Iran the number is projected to increase to 30 million by 2050 and this is something new for Iran and now it’s a good to for formulating policies to plan a better future.”

In the near future the government will face serious challenges for paying pension for the elderly, he noted. 

Jahangiri went on to say that “accordingly in the seventh development plan we will be planning for the requirements of the older persons in depth from various social, cultural and political aspects.”

The conference can be a step for drawing up a more ambitious plan, he concluded.

Aging worldwide 

According to the World Health Organization between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world's population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years old.

The pace of population ageing is much faster than in the past. In 2050, 80% of older people will be living in low- and middle-income countries.

All countries face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift.

Unfortunately older people are often assumed to be frail or dependent, and a burden to society. Public health, and society as a whole, need to address these and other ageist attitudes, which can lead to discrimination, affect the way policies are developed and the opportunities older people have to experience healthy aging.

MQ/MG
  

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