News ID: 204317
Published: 0728 GMT November 14, 2017

UK, US 'must learn from poor countries' to solve aging crisis

UK, US 'must learn from poor countries' to solve aging crisis
theguardian.com

The aging crisis facing Britain, the US and other wealthier nations could be partly addressed by adopting initiatives being developed in poorer countries, experts said.

Low- and middle-income countries have been forced to be ‘innovative and ingenious’ in finding low-cost and effective solutions for their growing elderly populations, theguardian.com reported.

Some of the initiatives include:

● Devoting an entire city in Chile to experimenting with elderly care.

● Increasing involvement of older people in democracy through old people’s councils in Brazil.

● Training armies of volunteers in elderly care, as in several south-east Asian nations.

●Establishing job creation schemes for older people, as Finland and South Korea have both done.

Alexandre Kalache, a UN adviser and former director of the World Health Organization’s global aging program said, “The west could learn a lot from low- and middle-income countries about economically efficient, innovative and effective solutions to the aging issue.”

 “But it isn’t, because there’s a lot of negative bias, patronizing attitudes and prejudice from developed countries towards developing ones: A feeling that if an idea comes from a developing country, it’s not worth looking at,” said Kalache, now co-president of the International Longevity Centre-Brazil (ILC BR).

Britain’s efforts to meet the demands of its own aging population have been criticized: The World Bank has said its method of funding long-term care ‘results in inefficient use of personal and state resources’ and discourags individuals from saving.

John Beard, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Aging and Life Course said, “It is also guilty of harboring an attitude towards developing countries of a ‘paternalistic colony’.

“This is the model by which high-income countries think they know everything and tend to impose it on others,” he said. “The dominant approach is that low- and middle-income countries don’t have anything to teach them — and that anyway, the high-income country doesn’t need to learn anything.”

This attitude was highly misguided, said Beard. “If high-income countries kept their eyes open and were willing to look at what low- and middle-income countries were doing with a view to transposing it to their own, it would speed things along considerably. It’s going to take a long time to reach any answers if we’re all doing as we do now, which is waiting for the same ideas to arrive spontaneously to all of us.”

Beard said the west had a lot to learn about social care in particular.

“The attitude that drives discourses in high-income countries is that older people are a drain on budgets and there is no point investing in services for them,” he said.

“Low- and middle-income countries understand that you can build a whole industry around older people and that can benefit the whole economy.”

Large swaths of the world are facing a demographic challenge. There are more people over the age of 60 than below the age of five. Worldwide, 80-plus is the fastest-growing population subgroup, up from 14 million in 1950 to a projected 379 million by 2050.

The rate at which longevity has increased has been particularly dramatic in low- and middle-income countries.

“We need new ideas at local and national level to avoid collision with this incredibly fast-occurring issue,” said Kalache. “Planning must be highly innovative as families and the larger economy cannot afford the departure from the formal workplace of large numbers of women to care for relatives. And care does tend to be left to women.”

Kalache said the Brazilian government “gets many things wrong around ageing but it does get some things right,” such as the support it gives those working to find solutions. A prime example of this is the invention of old people’s councils.

Brazil invented the concept eight years ago to give visibility to older people’s concerns, views and voices. The councils give a voice to older people and have a real impact on older-life issues at national, state and municipal levels.

“In such countries as the UK or the US, it is more often the case that it is civil society organizations that provide the loudest voice of older persons. Many of these groups do admirable work but they are typically staffed by younger, middle-class professionals, often male, who have limited personal experience of either older age or caring for older persons. The important protagonism of older adults is often missing,” said Kalache.

   
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