A society for all ages encompasses the goal of providing older people with the opportunity to continue contributing to society. To work towards this goal, it is necessary to remove whatever excludes or discriminates against them. The social and economic contribution of older persons reaches beyond their economic activities. They often play critical roles in families and in the community. They make many valuable contributions that are not measured in economic terms; care for family members, productive subsistence work, household maintenance and voluntary activities in the community.
Factors affecting older women in the labour market deserve special attention, in particular those factors that affect women’s engagement in paid work, including lower salaries, lack of career development due to interrupted work histories, family care obligations and their ability to build pensions and other resources for their retirement. A lack of family-friendly policy regarding the organization of work can increase these difficulties. Poverty and low income during women’s earning years can often lead to poverty in old age. An integral goal of the International Plan of Action is to achieve age diversity and gender balance in the workplace.
Recognize and accommodate the caring responsibilities of increasing proportions of workers for older family members, persons with disabilities and persons with chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS, by developing, inter alia, family-friendly and gender-sensitive policies aimed at reconciling work and care-giving responsibilities.
In many developing countries and countries with economies in transition, the ageing population is marked in rural areas, owing to the exodus to the young adults. Older persons may be left behind without traditional family support and even without adequate financial resources. Policies and programmes for food security and agricultural production must take into account the implications of rural ageing. Older women in rural areas are particularly vulnerable economically, especially when their role for others is restricted to non-remunerated work for family upkeep and they are dependent on others for their support and survival. Older persons in rural areas in developed countries and countries with economies in transition often still lack basic services and have insufficient economic and community resources.
The urban setting is generally less conducive to sustaining the traditional extended family network and reciprocity systems than are rural areas. Older migrants from rural to urban areas in developing countries often face loss of social networks and suffer from the lack of a supporting infrastructure in cities, which can lead to their marginalization and exclusion, in particular if they are ill or disabled. In countries with a long history of rural to urban migration and the expansion of underdeveloped cities, there is a growing population of poor older persons. The urban setting for the older migrant in developing countries and countries with economies in transition is often one of crowded housing, poverty, loss of economic autonomy and little physical and social care from family members who must earn their living outside the home
Encourage and support traditional and non-traditional multi-generational mutual assistance activities with a clear gender perspective in the family, the neighbourhood and the community. At the family and community level, inter-generational ties can be valuable for everyone. Despite geographic mobility and other pressures of contemporary life that can keep people apart, the great majority of people in all cultures maintain close relations with their families throughout their lives. These relationships work in both directions, with older persons often providing significant contributions both financially and, crucially, in the education and care of grandchildren and other kin. All sectors of society, including Governments, should aim to strengthen those ties. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that living with younger generations is not always the preferred or best option for older persons.
Recognize the potential of older persons as leaders in the family and community for education, communication and conflict resolution.
In developing countries, and some countries with economies in transition, rapid demographic ageing is taking place in a context of continuing urbanization and a growing number of persons who are ageing in urban areas lack affordable housing and services. At the same time a large number of persons are ageing in isolation in rural areas, rather than in the traditional environment of an extended family. Left alone they are often without adequate transportation and support systems.
It is appropriate to develop social support systems, both formal and informal, with a view to enhancing the ability of families to take care of older persons within the family, including in particular the provision of long-term support and services for the growing number of frail older persons
Also, promote provision of community-based care and support of family care, taking into account equal distribution of caring responsibilities between women and men by measures for better reconciliation of working and family life.
Families are sensitive to strains induced by social and economic changes. It is essential to grant particular assistance to families in difficult life situations. Conditions have worsened for many families in recent years, owing to lack of gainful employment and measures taken by Governments seeking to balance their budget by reducing social expenditures. There are increasing numbers of vulnerable families, including single parent families headed by women, poor families with elderly members or those with disabilities, refugee and displaced families, and families with members affected by AIDS or other terminal diseases, substance dependence, child abuse and domestic violence. Increased labour migrations and refugee movements are an additional source of family tension and disintegration and are contributing to increased responsibilities for women. In many urban environments, millions of children and youths are left to their own devices as family ties break down, hence are increasingly exposed to risk such as dropping out of school, labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Commit to addressing as a priority the vulnerabilities faced by children affected by and living with HIV; providing support and rehabilitation to these children and their families, women and the elderly, particularly in their role as caregivers; promoting child oriented HIV/AIDS policies and programmes and increased protection for children orphaned and affected by HIV/AIDS; ensuring access to treatment and intensifying efforts to develop new treatments for children; and building, where needed, and supporting the social security systems that protect them; HIV/AIDS.