Last Updated on October 1, 2016 at 6:01 PM
Health Watch
  • World Health Organization estimates that by 2050 the global population of persons older than 60 years will become 2 billion. By 2020, the proportion of ageing population is set to double from the existing 12% to 22%.
  • Ageism, the practice of discriminating against a person based on age is widespread and can have harmful effects on their health.
  • ‘Take A Stand Against Ageism’, is the 2016 WHO theme for the International Older Adults Day that falls on 1st October.

'International Older Adults Day' is celebrated every year on 1st October. The United Nations General Assembly voted in December 1990 to celebrate this day every year as the International Day of Older Adults. It aims to create global awareness on problems faced by the elderly, to applaud their contributions to society, and to improve their quality of life.

The WHO theme for the year 2016 is, 'Take a stand against ageism'. It aims to tackle and change widely held beliefs and prejudices in society that discriminate against people because of their age.
Take a Stand Against Ageism – Celebrate the Elderly on the International Older Person’s Day 2016

Ageism in Society

Ageism, the practice of discriminating against people based on their age, is rampant and is akin to racism and sexism.

Due to long-held beliefs and prejudices, all elderly are perceived as 'weak and frail', 'inefficient' and 'incapable'. Societal attitudes towards elderly, institutional policies and governmental apathy tend to perpetuate these beliefs further and the elderly are caught in a vicious cycle that may negatively impact their health and well-being.

Ageism in society also tends to unconsciously influence the way the elderly feel about themselves, as being physically weak and incapable, as economic burdens on the family and mentally deficient. Quite a few of these beliefs stem from incomplete knowledge and awareness of certain conditions such as dementia, and mistaking it to be a normal part of ageing.

Long-term health care of the elderly is commonly equated with poor working conditions, and makes it difficult to employ paid caregivers for the elderly. This in turn, makes life difficult for the elderly.

Ageism restricts broader thinking and manner of looking at problems and arriving at solutions.

In short, ageism limits the framing and creation of better policies for the elderly.

How Ageism Impacts the Elderly

Ageism has been shown to affect the heart, cause lower levels of self-efficacy and decrease productivity of the older adults.

Studies have shown that elderly persons with negative attitudes to aging die nearly 8 years earlier than those with positive views about aging.

Taking a Stand Against Ageism

The society values youth more than elderly, hence tackling ageism will not be easy. However old age brings with it wisdom and experience and the elderly in the society needs to be cherished and not scorned away. One old person expressed himself eloquently when he wrote on Dreams in Thyme -
'These are not wrinkles

These are survival lines of my life

Each one holds a story, a laugh or a memory

They are like snowflakes, no two are alike'

Some actions that may aid in combating ageism include -
  • Educating and creating knowledge among the public, policy makers, employers and service providers about aging through concerted campaigns.
  • Changing existing laws against age-based discrimination.
  • Role of media in putting forth a balanced view on ageing
Changing and correcting widespread misconceptions about ageing will not be easy, but a beginning has to be made sooner than later.

Common Health Conditions Among the Elderly

The global aging population (people over 60 years) is set to double in the next ten years. Countries need to come up with policies and develop infrastructure to meet their requirement

Providing accessible health care will be a major challenge. The common diseases among the elderly include -
  • Heart disease,
  • Stroke 
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Sensory impairments, especially visual and auditory
  • Depression
  • Neck pain     
  • Frequent falls
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Osteoarthritis
Health Tips for the Elderly

The following tips may improve quality of life for the elderly -
It should be remembered that the elderly have nurtured us, taught us values, created and shown the path for our success and achievements. It is our duty to allow them to age with dignity and grace. As Alfred Lord Tennyson said ~ "Old age hath yet his honour and his toil."

References :
  1. 10 Facts on Ageing and Health - (
  2. Ageism - Frequently Asked Questions - (
  3. International Day of Older Persons - (
Source: Medindia

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