The United Nations designates October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons. This year’s theme—The Journey to Age Equality—focuses on pathways of coping with existing and preventing future old age inequality. It is aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda, Goal 10 which is designed to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequality of outcome, including through measures to eliminate discrimination, and to employ and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic or other status.
The 2019 theme is intended to explore how to address demographic and other societal changes and to change the narrative of “old age”. In less than two decades, older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history. Starting in 2030, when all Baby Boomers will be older than 65, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today. These demographics have great implications for policies related to healthcare, caregiving, social structures, pensions and social security.
At the Administration for Community Living, we strive to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults and people with disabilities. Today, at the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) 57th Directing Council Side Event, I am moderating a panel, The Response to Aging Societies: Challenges and Opportunities in Fostering Sustainable Health and Long-Term Care System in the Americas, highlighting perspectives from the U.S., Europe, Japan and the PAHO Regional.
In August, I had the privilege to represent the United States at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Third Senior Officials’ Meeting. Specifically, I participated in the 9th High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Health and the Economy in Puerto Varas, Chile. There, I shared our vision to help older adults reach their full health potential, live with dignity, and participate fully in society. I presented on the economic imperative for planning to enhance healthy aging, embracing the digital future in support of healthy aging in place, and supporting the global aging agenda. These presentations included examples of how progress has been made possible in the United States because of the framework we have based in equity, inclusion and nondiscrimination.
Also, I heard from, and was inspired by, what I learned from others about their structures and innovations in the fields of health and aging. As a result, I urge us all to use today, the International Day of Older Persons, as an opportunity to honor and celebrate the countless contributions and enormous potential of older people throughout the globe. We should rededicate ourselves and continue to promote the health, well-being, community involvement, and independence of older Americans. Also, we should all work to promote equality in access and opportunity -- including access to healthcare, caregiving, the ability to work and remain employed, access to lifelong learning, or in the range of social protections that lead to productive living throughout the life course.