This week, the whole world is looking towards Rio de Janeiro, where the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is taking place. Important emerging challenges are being discussed, such as climate change and natural disasters, migration and displacement, food, water security and health.
However, one issue that has major implications on achieving the future we want is missing – that of global ageing.
Climate change, environmental degradation and conflicts increase the likelihood of emergency situations, which older people can be particularly vulnerable to. As a result of climate change, older people’s food security is at risk. Increasing droughts mean that farming is difficult and hunger is on the rise. Finally, older people’s susceptibility to infectious disease and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) continue to impact their health.
Older people also have key role to play in promoting sustainable development. They make huge contributions as rural farmers and caregivers. They have knowledge and experience of farming techniques and weather patterns and in some countries in East and Southern Africa, 40-60% of children affected by AIDS are cared for by older people.
Sustainable development requires the engagement of the world’s older population. Acknowledging older people’s contributions and roles and ensuring that they are healthy, active and included as they age is necessary to create true sustainable development.