Washington, D.C. — The
number of people over age 60 living in Latin America and the Caribbean
is expected to reach some 100 million by 2025, a 78% increase over the
56 million older adults who were living in the region as of 2006. The
gains reflect major public health progress, but they also pose major
challenges for countries that must meet the needs of growing numbers of
“This dramatic shift presents us with a window of opportunity to focus
new attention on healthy aging. By making adequate social and health
investments now, we can promote longer, healthier, and more active
lives, while ensuring that aging populations do not become an economic
burden for countries’ development,” said the Director of the Pan
American Health Organization, Dr. Mirta Roses Periago.
Population aging is one of the most pronounced demographic trends in
Latin America and the Caribbean and has a major impact on public health.
Thanks to gains in life expectancy, a 60-year-old living in the region
now can expect to live an additional 21 years. Of those born today, an
estimated 81% will live beyond age 60, and 42% will live beyond age 80.
While this contributes to the accumulation of social capital, it can
also create major challenges for families, social and health systems,
and older people themselves.
World Health Day 2012—whose theme was “healthy aging”—called attention
to the importance of keeping older adults active, healthy, and engaged
to maintain their independence well into their later years and prevent
or delay illness and disabilities.
“It is our responsibility and in our own interest to make sure we all
continue to live full, healthy and productive lives as long as we are on
this earth,” said Dr. Enrique Vega, PAHO/WHO Advisor on Healthy Aging.
“This means investing more in our health and social systems and in
policies to support seniors, and striving as individuals and
collectively to be active and engaged as we all age.”
Dr. George Alleyne, Director Emeritus of PAHO/WHO, says it is equally
important to recognize the value of seniors’ contributions and to
mobilize them economically, socially, and in policymaking and advocacy
efforts to help define and meet the challenges of population aging. “We
need to change our perceptions of the roles and responsibilities of the
elderly,” said Alleyne.
“Healthy aging allows us to break the stereotype of seniors as passive
recipients of social and health services. By staying healthy and
independent, they are an invaluable resource for society and contribute
enormously to the welfare of their families and communities,” said Dr.
PAHO aging experts note that many countries’ health systems are already
unable to provide comprehensive health care for seniors. Moreover,
countries often lack the information they need to adequately assess the
health requirements of older adults and the impact of policies,
programs, and interventions on their health. Without action now, these
problems will only worsen as the number of older adults continues to
Urgent areas for action include strengthening health systems and
training health personnel, particularly in areas such as preventive
medicine and integrated care for chronic noncommunicable diseases;
developing and implementing programs to promote ‘‘self-management” and
“self-care’’ for older adults; and strengthening social protection
mechanisms to keep seniors out of poverty.
Vega notes that, in the medium term, population aging in the region
will contribute to economic growth and facilitate such action.
"For the next 40 years, the economically active population will grow
more rapidly than the dependent population. Now is the time to make the
social and health investments we need to ensure healthy and active aging
and a lighter economic burden in the future," he said.
Aging in the Americas