Rights Matter. Population Ageing in the 2020’s

Not to rush the future, but 2020 is fast upon us and last week the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) announced its 15th Global Conference on Ageing, entitled “Rights Matter”.




Taking place in Niagara Falls, Canada – November 1-3, here is a brief intro to this theme as described on the IFA website:

Population ageing is arguably one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, health, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties

The risk of being under prepared for the impact of population ageing will be great, but equally the potential upsides and extraordinary opportunities are underestimated.”

Still early days yet and there will be sub-themes developed further, but the seeds for the 2020 Rights Matter conversation were already sown in the 2018 conference in Toronto, through discussions on Addressing Inequalities for instance. People around the world do not encounter the ageing experience exactly the same way, access to health care for one example.

What struck me, while sitting in relative luxury at last year’s conference, as these inequalities were touched on, is that while we think of ageing as a significant social transformation, it does not stand alone. It is wrapped within other narratives such as global mass migration (not by choice), brought on by war and civil unrest, climate change and famine.

For countless numbers of much less fortunate people in some parts of the world, thoughts about ageing healthily with some foreseeable hope of longevity are not even an inkling.

As I have mused before, upon writer William Gibson’s line – “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”, the same can be said about the path to ageing and longevity.

In different corners around the world, the promise of living a safe, healthy, economically sustainable extended lifetime may not be so certain. For those of us living in societies that have the capacity to deliver on the upsides and extraordinary opportunities, we must find a way to leverage our results and share it with the rest of the world.

According to the IFA, “the Rights Matter conference findings aim to respond to the intersection of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the priorities of the WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan.” To prepare for this conference it would be well worth examining both these initiatives in order to participate in the dialogue with presenters and other delegates.

In so many ways, Rights Matter is a timely and powerful title, but with nearly six hundred days to go, maybe we should be having the conference this November.

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