Prepare now to help people age well: ADB

Prepare now to help people age well: ADB

Tbilisi, May 2

The longer lifespans that reflect the development success of developing Asia and the Pacific are posing increasing challenges to secure the well-being of the rapidly ageing population. At the same time, economies have an opportunity to reap a ‘silver dividend’ in the form of additional productivity from older people, which could boost gross domestic product in the region by 0.9 per cent on an average.

This was highlighted in the ‘Aging Well in Asia: Asian Development Policy Report’, released today by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at its 57th Annual Meeting, which commenced here.

The number of people aged 60 and older in developing Asia and the Pacific is set to nearly double by 2050 to 1.2 billion – which translates to about a quarter of the total population – significantly increasing the need for pension and welfare programmes as well as health care services. This could be concerning as the region faces challenges from low pension coverage to health problems, social isolation, and limited access to essential services.

“Asia and the Pacific’s rapid development is a success story, but it’s also fuelling a huge demographic shift, and the pressure is rising,” said ADB Chief Economist Albert Park. “Governments need to prepare now if they’re going to be able to help hundreds of millions of people in the region age well. Policies should support lifetime investment in health, education, skills, and financial preparedness for retirement. Family and social ties are also important to foster healthy and productive populations of older people and maximise their contribution to society.”

According to the report, 40 per cent of people over age 60 in Asia and the Pacific lack access to any form of pension – with women disproportionately affected, as they are more likely to do unpaid domestic work. As a result, many older people in the region have no choice but to work well beyond retirement age to survive. Among those still working at age 65 or older, 94 per cent work in the informal sector, which typically doesn’t provide basic labour protections or pension benefits.

Physical and mental health challenges also increase with age. Around 60 per cent of older people in Asia and the Pacific do not attend or receive regular health checks, while 31 per cent report depressive symptoms owing to illness, social isolation, and economic insecurity. Older women in the region are also more likely than older men to suffer from ill health, from depression to diabetes and hypertension.

The report recommends a wide range of policy measures to support healthy and economically secure ageing. Among these are government-assisted health insurance and pension plans, improved health infrastructure, and free annual check-ups and lifestyle evaluations. Policymakers should aim for universal health care coverage, while basic labour protections should be extended to older informal workers, according to the report.

By making mandatory retirement ages more flexible, helping older people stay healthy, and providing them with suitable work opportunities as well as lifelong learning and skills development, economies in the region can help older people stay productive longer.

Arnaud Cauchois, ADB country director for Nepal, who is attending the ADB’s 57th Annual Meeting here, said, “I understand that the government of Nepal already provides senior citizens with monthly allowances, insurance coverage, and medical allowances for certain diseases. Looking ahead, it’s crucial for the government to prioritise investment in long-term care infrastructure and comprehensive social services and create an enabling environment for the private sector to collaborate with the government, so the joint efforts will expand the range of services available to meet the diverse needs of aging populations. Although we do not have any specific programme yet in this regard, ADB stands ready to support.”

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