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The month of Ramadan is about compassion and giving for Muslims around the world.  This makes it an especially important time to reach out to the elderly who are lonely, without companionship or family.

In Qatar, as part of the Reach Out to Asia (ROTA) initiative, volunteers are reaching out to the elderly at the Qatar Foundation for Elderly Care.  Last weekend, ROTA volunteers shared iftar (meal breaking the fast) and interacted with residents.

A UK based organization is donating food packs for iftar to vulnerable people in the community or those who cannot attend events on their own.

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Family Welfare Movement (PKK) in cooperation with the Red Cross is providing donations for the elderly in Jakarta and is offering a venue for socializing.

Even if you yourself do not observe Ramadan, perhaps your loved ones, elders or caregivers are fasting during this month.   It is important to note that the elderly do not have to fast.  According to the Emirates Home Nursing Senior Care Service, “The Quran exempts sick people from the duty of fasting – Muslims with chronic diseases may not perceive themselves as sick and are eager to fast.”  Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems are common ailments which increase health risks during fasting.   Find out if any of the elderly in your community will be fasting and offer guidance and support.

The holiday this year spans from around July 20 to August 19. (These dates vary from country to country depending on traditions, the lunar calendar, and by region.)

Celebrating or not, take this opportunity to connect with the elderly in your community.

1er plat de ramadan

Traditional Ramadan Feast [Photo Credit: amekinfo, Flickr]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a program last year called “Love for the Elderly”, a pension program which provides minimum wage subsidies to pensioners (about $360 USD per month). More than 1 million people have already registered for this program.

“Love for the Elderly” aims at recognizing the efforts of the elderly who have worked their entire lives, and those who have been wronged by employers and did not receive social security benefits.

In 2012, Venezuela accepted the inclusion of senior citizens to their pension benefits program and approved 20,000 Venezuelans each month into the mission.

The Bolivarian administration relies almost entirely on the local debt market for financing, and this month has increased its borrowing for this program.  The administration is now asking for an almost $7 billion dollar increase for “Love for the Elderly” and other welfare programs like “Children of Venezuela”.

Chavez announced that Venezuela has enough resources to continue investing in the country’s development and ensures resources for social missions – a win for pensioners, who will likely have a livable income, and better funded programs such as “Housing Venezuela”.  Venezuela has also been struggling with an affordable housing crisis for more than a year, where thousands of Venezuelans have been living in disaster shelters, waiting for government homes.

What would this mean for the elderly of Venezuela?  According to one pensioner, Luis Araque from Caracas, “This is the first time that senior citizens are receiving help, and in my case I need it, because I have always been self-employed and I don’t have a pension.”  There are estimated to be 400,000 elderly in dire need in the country.
Venezuela Ecléctica (50 de 52 y 1/2)

[Credit: Flickr, NeoGaboX (Gabriel S. Delgado)]

On Thursday, July 26, 2012 the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will continue considering the social and human rights questions on how to engage more constructive participation by Member States during their meeting in New York.

From 23-27 July, 2012 ECOSOC’s primary focus of the General Segment will be to discuss the state of world affairs in the field of development.  Item 14 on the agenda, Social and Human Rights, will tackle the report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights of older persons.

In April 2012, the UNHCHR issued a report (E/2012/51) in 6 UN languages on the human rights of older persons.  The report concluded that powerful advocacy efforts are needed for a new convention.  The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) was established to strengthen the protection of the human rights of older persons and continues to make headway.

The OEWG will then have their third substantive session on 1-4 August 2012 in New York.

Per the April UNHCHR report:

“64. The situation of older persons presents a number of particular and urgent human rights challenges…each posing a set of issues that deserves in-depth analysis and regulation.

66. Current arrangements at the national and international level to protect the human rights of older persons are inadequate. Dedicated measures to strengthen the international protection regime for older persons are called for without further delay.”

The second working session discussed five topics, namely, discrimination and multiple discrimination; right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; violence and abuse; social protection and the right to social security; and age and social exclusion.

We look forward to a positive third session and encourage NGOs to help the OEWG advocate for the rights of older persons.

Flags in front of UN Headquarters

[credit: USAID_images]


Credit: Jason Tromm

In a recent research report titled “Pain Management: A Global Strategic Business Report”, Global Industry Analysts Inc., conducted a quantitative study on characteristics of the global pain management market. 

The global pain management market is estimated to reach $77billion by 2017, with Asia-Pacific forecasted to lead regional growth.  Currently, the United States holds the largest regional market for pain management worldwide, expected to reach $60 billion by 2015.  Latin America is also expected to grow significantly, as developing nations demand more pharmaceuticals to care for increasing incidence of pain.  Several factors have contributed to the expansion of this market, including:

–          Increasing global aging population

–          Constant and consistent development and discovery of new drugs

–          Emergence of pain management clinics

–          Changing lifestyles that cause repetitive strain injuries

–          Growing global demand for pain management drugs

While the study addresses current market trends, key growth drivers and industry innovation, GIA takes this opportunity to marvel at the pain management market as an explosion of success, due to the growth of companies such as AstraZeneca Plc. and Merck & Co., Inc and to the global aging population.   It does not, however, go into depth about pain and aging, specifically for managing chronic conditions.

While the market is successful, persistent pain, especially in older people, continues to take a toll on the well being of the elderly.  Thanks to Age UK, a chronicle of experiences from an older perspective has been made available to share the accounts of those who most utilize this growing pain management market. “Pain in Older People” (2008) is a compassionate, heart-warming first person account from those who experience and cope with ongoing pain to help raise awareness of the challenges older people face.

European Commission May 5 2012


Europe has marked 2012 the Year of Active Ageing and Intergenerational Solidarity in hopes of stimulating the employability of older workers and inspiring positive attitudes towards active aging.  The Commission’s “Never too old to…” campaign has been spreading across Europe to promote learning, encourage integration and initiate development for the ageing community.  See video

On May 5, 2012, the European Commission in Bonn invited professionals to participate in workshops to discuss projects to spread the notion of an age-friendly Europe.

Despite European Commission’s best efforts, the age-group of 50 years and older has been struggling to change the perspective on economic inclusion across Europe.  The tendency towards younger entrepreneurs is highly visible in companies across Europe. 

Although the face of European start-up culture is dominated by young faces in their 20s and 30s, Baby Boomers will represent the most crucial population demographic. The older business-minded have also been making an impact.  Older entrepreneurs across sectors tend to gain many years of experience and then start “safe” businesses in regulated markets.  It is also a way to turn a honed skilled and hobby into a successful career.  Older entrepreneurs have much to offer and share in The Year of Active Ageing.

Read success stories of older entrepreneurs at 

For resources on elders starting their own business, please visit:

Community Press has created a book intended to help elders stay safe online. The book, Computer Scams, Shams, and Spam: How to Safely Enjoy Your Online Time [For Boomers and Beyond], provides older computer users the education they need to protect themselves from the scam artists that prey on
them via email, at websites, as well as over the phone.  Filled with pictures and  real-life examples of malicious campaigns against the elderly, the book is a valuable resource for older people who want to reap the benefits of online engagement while protecting themselves from cyberthreats. For more information about the book, check out Community Press’ website.

Top tips include:

1) Protect your personal information. Read privacy policies, check URLS, and shop only with trustworthy businesses

2) Beware of deals that sound “too good to be true.” You already have heard it, if it sounds “too good to be true” it probably is. Unsolicited emails from “lost relatives,” “Nigerian businessmen,” and people selling care in another state are almost always shams. If someone contacts you promising you funds, be suspicious.

3) Watch out for phishing. Phishing is an attempt by an illigitamate business to impersonate a legitatmate business and dupe customers into “verifying” their personal information. Click on the links in a phishing email, and you’ll be directed to a site that looks like the site you normally use, but this one is set up to steal your info! With step-by-step advice,  Computer Scams, Shams and Spam can help your parent or grandparent figure out what to trust, and what to stay away from.

Geneva, April 11, 2012 – A report released today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) calls upon governments, policymakers and other stakeholders to make dementia a global public health priority. This new report provides the most authoritative overview of the impact of dementia worldwide. In addition to valuable best practices and practical case studies from around the world, it contains the most comprehensive collection of data, including hard-to-get statistics from low- and middle-income countries, thereby dramatically underscoring that this is truly a global problem and not just a “disease of the industrial world.”

To prepare the report, titled ” Dementia: A Public Health Priority ,” WHO and ADI commissioned reports from four working groups of experts and sought additional inputs from nearly two dozen international contributors and more than 20 expert reviewers. The project leaders were Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO; Marc Wortmann, Executive Director, ADI; Dr. Daisy Acosta, Chairman, ADI; Prof. Martin Prince, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London; and Ennapadam. S Krishnamoorthy, Director and T.S. Srinivasan, Chair, The Institute of Neurological Sciences, India.

“WHO recognises the size and complexity of the dementia challenge and urges countries to view dementia as a critical public health priority,” said Dr. Saxena. “Right now, only eight of 194 WHO member states have a national dementia plan in place, and a few more are in development. Our hope is that other countries will follow suit, using this report as a starting point for planning and implementation. A few, like India, have national strategies developed by civil-society organisations, and we hope this report will prompt their governments to adapt these into official national plans. Since we know the prevalence of the disease will explode in this century as we all live longer – the risk of dementia is 1 in 8 for those over 65 and a shocking 1 in 2.5 for those over 85 – its impact will become greater as the decades go by.”

In her foreword to the report, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan called the report “a major contribution to our understanding of dementia and its impact on individuals, families and society.”  She said the report “provides the knowledge base for a global and national response to facilitate governments, policymakers and other stakeholders to address the impact of dementia as an increasing threat to global health.” Dr. Chan called upon all stakeholders to “make health and social care systems informed and responsive to this impending threat.”

Marc Wortmann of ADI underscored the urgency of action: “With its devastating impact on people with dementia, their families, their communities and national health systems, dementia represents not only a public health crisis but a social and fiscal nightmare as well. Around the world a new case of dementia arises every four seconds. That’s a staggering growth rate, equivalent to 7.7 million new cases of dementia every year – the same size as the populations of Switzerland and Israel. Our current health systems simply cannot cope with the explosion of the dementia crisis as we all live longer; this is as much an economic and fiscal disaster waiting to happen as it is a social and health challenge of the highest order. However, the report also shows that there is a lot that can be done to improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers. The entire dementia community, and indeed the world, owes a huge debt of gratitude to the WHO to have taken the leadership in the creation of the report. The WHO is the singular organisation globally capable of such a critical role in matters of public health.”

Publication of the WHO/ADI report comes on the heels of an impassioned plea for action by global public health expert Prof. Peter Piot who, as former UNAIDS Executive Director, helped lead the world in turning HIV/AIDS from a certain death sentence into a manageable illness. In a recent speech, Prof. Piot described dementia – and Alzheimer’s disease in particular – as a “ticking time bomb” given the rapid growth in aging populations worldwide. According to ADI research, now given even further legitimacy in the WHO’s report, the number of people living with dementia worldwide, estimated at 35.6 million in 2010, is set to nearly double every 20 years, reaching 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. Drawing striking parallels between dementia today and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, Prof. Piot argued that the world must tackle dementia with a similar level of urgency and concerted resources. “If the world needed a wake-up call, it is on this global crisis. I do not see any alternative than to treat Alzheimer’s with at least the attention we gave HIV/AIDs,” said Piot.

“Given these numbers,” said Michael Hodin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Global Coalition on Aging and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, “Alzheimer’s, among all non-communicable diseases, demands our urgent and serious focus. We must find the political will and accompanying funding for more effective treatments, earlier detection and diagnosis, and most critically prevention and cures. Absent this level and scope of attention, Alzheimer’s will surely become the fiscal nightmare of the 21st century, quite apart from the personal, family and community devastation it causes in its wake.”

“There is an increasing body of evidence that the risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease are the same as those that cause many other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and lung disease,” says Ann Keeling, Chair of The NCD Alliance and Chief Executive of the International Diabetes Federation. “Last year’s UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs in New York formally recognised that mental and neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, contribute significantly to the NCD burden worldwide. By working together to address these common risk factors, the global health community can make great inroads into the burden of disease caused by Alzheimer’s disease and these other NCDs, that together cause 3 in 5 of all deaths worldwide today.”

Photo courtesy Ron ashore

Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday that the U.K. will double funding for dementia research by 2015. Dementia funding will go from “£26 million at the end of the last parliament to over £66 million at the end of this one,” he announced in a speech. He went on to say that the lack of response to the dementia challenge was scandalous and amounted to a national crisis.

The increase in funding will be funneled to NHS hospitals for diagnosis and treatment. Currently the U.K. has 670,000 people living with dementia but more than have of them have not been diagnosed. The total number of people living with dementia in the U.K. is expected to reach 1 million within a decade.

Raising rates of dementia cannot only be addressed as a biomedical issue, but also must be tackled as a social issue in terms of stigma, care giving, and structural supports to maintain personhood and dignity for those living with the disease.

Said Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust: “The dementia challenge will require progress in social care, so that patients can be helped to live at home for longer, and so that relatives who care for their loved ones receive the support they need. And it will require action to raise awareness of this devastating condition, so that it is understood and not stigmatised.”

Photo courtesy of  windelbo

In Puna India, calls reporting crime and abuse of senior citizens have gone up to 20% of the total calls in 2011,  compared with 14% in 2007. This is a considerable rise in the reporting of cases of abuse and crime against the elderly in the city. According to Jyoti Pund, a police spokesperson,  “in 2011, there were a total of 380 calls reporting elder abuse and crime. Crime and abuse include harassment at the hands of children, not being cared for, physical and verbal abuse from relatives and children, cheating, robbery, and attacks.”  According to Mr. Pund, the police intervene by providing counseling  and if the problem persists, a police complaint is lodged.

Interested in what is being done to address seniors’ needs in India? Check out this video or visit the HelpAge India website.




in Latin America, many older people scrape by without a pension; often times they live in poverty without access to food, housing or medical care. To address this problem, the Government of Mexico City and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean will host an international event from 26 to 28 March, 2012, to discuss measures to ensure economic security among elders. The aim of the meeting is to contribute, from the Latin American and Caribbean perspective, to the work that is being developed by the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing and the Working Group on the Protection of the Human Rights of Older Persons of the Organization of American States. For more information on the event, click here.

You might also want to check out this video from HelpAge International on their efforts to ensure human rights of older people in Bolivia and Peru.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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