The sad reality is that many older persons are being left out or have inadequate access to health care in many countries. Even in more developed countries, as many as 41 percent of the elderly (people aged more than 65 years) encounter problems in seeking health services.

"Health services must stop leaving older people behind," the World Health Organization declared, as it urged member states to integrate more health care programmes for the elderly in their respective health systems, on the occasion of the International Day of the Older Person.

“The world’s health system aren’t ready for older populations,” Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at WHO said, adding, “if health systems are to meet the needs of older populations, they must provide ongoing care focused on these issues that matter to older people."

In 2050, one in five people will be above the age of 60, equivalent to 20 percent of the world population.

In the Philippines, Age Asia - a non-government organization - estimated that 5.9 million people belonged to the 'aged' group or 6.1 percent of the population.

It predicted that the number would reach 23.6 milion by 2050, or 15.3 percent of the country's total population.

Many older people suffer from chronic, multiple conditions, such as chronic pain, and difficulties with hearing, seeing, walking or performing daily activities.

The United Nations health agency noted that today's health systems are more focused on diagnosis and treatment of individual acute diseases, rather than prevention and wel-being.

In addition, the WHO, in consultation with 30 geriatric medicine experts, launched a guideline for care of the older people titled "Integrated Care for Older People," which tackles a variety of issues including malnutrition, mobility loss, urinary incontinence, falls, hearing and visual impairments, depression, and cognitive, behavioural and psychological problems. 

WHO aims to counter ageism, or negative perceptions about the elderly population, enable autonomy for older adults, and support healthy ageing in all policies.

“It’s our goal to ensure that all older people can obtain the health services they need, whoever they are, wherever they live,” said WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The world celebrates the Internal Day of Older Person every October 1, as designated by the United Nations.

In the Philippines, Presidential Proclamation No. 470 of 1994 designated the first week of October as “Elderly Filipino Week.” MIMS

Read more: