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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 01:44 GMT 02:44 UK
UN tackles world's ageing problem
Elderly man in Afghanistan
Ageing process is fastest in the developing world
Problems created by the world's increasingly ageing population are to be addressed by delegates from nearly 200 countries at a United Nations conference which opens on Monday in Madrid.

According to UN estimates, within the next 50 years, one-in-five people will be aged over 60 - the result of the combination of increased life expectancy and low fertility rates.

And this will create a massive financial burden on social services, particularly in poorer countries.

Organisers want the delegates to agree on a new international plan of action on ageing which will commit member states to guaranteeing the rights of the elderly.

Changing structures

The last UN conference on ageing took place in Vienna in 1982.

Since then demographic structures have changed radically - with longer life expectancy, falling birth-rates and Aids all having an impact.

Previously considered a problem for Europe and the United States, the UN says that it is in now in Africa, Asia and Latin America that the population is ageing fastest.

It says that while in the wealthier countries ageing will place strains on healthcare and pensions, in poorer nations which lack such safeguards ageing will lead to neglect and abuse.

The long-term strategy discussed by the five-day conference is expected to include guidelines on pension provision, access to social and sanitary services and ways to fight discrimination.

UN's Dr Johan Schlovnick
"International co-operation and assistance wil be required"
Thembekile Hlubi Muthande Society for the Aged
"There is no connection anymore between elderly people and family"
See also:

05 Apr 02 | Europe
Elderly 'bear brunt of Aids care'
22 Mar 02 | Europe
Europe's skills headache
28 Feb 01 | World
'Nine billion people by 2050'
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