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Schermafdruk 2016 09 26 21.00.28Developing countries are seeing the fastest acceleration in population aging, but policies for hospices and caregivers aren’t keeping pace. For many women, age-based discrimination exacerbates a lifetime of gender inequality.

The world is getting older, and that’s not great news for women. Today, one in every nine people is aged 60 years or over, and projections say that will increase to one in five by 2050. While population aging is a global demographic phenomenon, it’s happening faster in developing countries. For experts, organizations and governments, the question is how to ensure that both men and women can age with dignity and security even in places with low resources. But for many women, aging places additional burdens on them and compounds experiences of gender inequality with age-based discrimination. In places where women have fewer opportunities for education and work or face barriers in obtaining property rights, they are more vulnerable as they approach old age. For example, more older women than older men are blind, not only because women are living longer but also because they have less access to medical treatment. The “feminization of aging” reflects the fact that women already outnumber men in older age groups, and this disproportionately increases the older they get. There’s widespread consensus that aging is a major trend that requires attention. The problem is how to translate understanding into action. “Everyone is feeling the impact, but they’re still figuring out how to address the need,” says Lisa Walke, associate chief for clinical affairs in geriatrics at Yale University. In low-income countries where she’s worked like Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, Walke says it’s really about how to divide up limited healthcare resources. While older adults are respected in Nigeria, for example, many still have trouble accessing care. According to Eric Miller, an anthropologist specializing in aging in China at Virginia Tech University, the Chinese government is paying attention. “If I turn on Chinese TV, there’s a 50 percent chance that I’ll land on a program on aging,” he says. Central authorities in Beijing have been calling for more hospice and palliative care to help elderly people cope with terminal illness, but Miller says local governments are slow to respond. It’s been said that China’s major modern challenge is to get rich before it gets old. But with more than 167 million people over 60 and slowing population growth, in many respects, it’s an impossible race. Moreover, China faces a daunting situation made worse by its enforcement until recently of a one-child policy that means in the future, millions of Chinese individuals will each potentially have to support, without siblings to share the burden, their two parents and four grandparents.

Asked whether China’s aging population poses a crisis . . . . read more

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