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The University of Southampton

Southampton professor calls for global recognition of human rights and dignity for older people

Published: 27 October 2017
Older lady
UNFPA report provides analysis of the lives of older people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

A University of Southampton professor is working with the United Nations to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing older people around the world.

Asghar Zaidi, an expert in International Social Policy, has helped prepare a major United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, which aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the lives of older people in Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries and a plan of action on ageing for governments and civil society. The report is prepared 15 years on from the signing of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) at the 2nd World Assembly on Ageing. The MIPAA is reviewed every five years and this report forms part of the review process. The report is being discussed this week in the Global Symposium on Ageing in Seoul.

The MIPAA offers an agenda for handling the issue of ageing in the 21st century, focussing on three priority areas: older persons and development; advancing health and well-being into old age; and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

Professor Zaidi said: “It is vital that we take stock of the latest ageing related data so as to facilitate evidence informed policy-making and in turn improve the lives of all older people where ever they live in the world.”

In contributing to the review of the MIPAA, the report highlights three areas of particular concern for older people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia:

  • The emigration of younger working age people from these regions to other countries, causing an imbalance in the care for older populations.
  • The need to take a gender sensitive approach to supporting older people, because men and women are diverse in their needs, preferences, and opportunities throughout their life course.
  • The life expectancy has increased for both women and men in the region, although this increase in longevity is not always accompanied by good health (especially for women).

Professor Zaidi commented: “The issue of emigration is of particular interest in this region. Young people are leaving their home countries to make a living abroad. This leaves a care gap, as traditionally in these countries the young would be looking after the old.”

“Our report recommends that incentives are needed to encourage younger people to stay in their home countries and it will require the creation of genuine economic and investment opportunities at home.”

Professor Zaidi is hopeful that the MIPAA will continue to have a global impact on the lives of older people: “A critical requirement in the MIPAA monitoring is to communicate, coordinate and collaborate internationally and with civil society to improve knowledge and policy practice. A full realisation of all human rights and dignity of older persons should be the ultimate goal of the implementation of policy frameworks, such as the MIPAA and the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals.”

The MIPAA review is published at


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