I had the pleasure of attending a series of briefings on global aging hosted by AARP International, in cooperation with the office of the UN Focal Point on Ageing – Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), at the United Nations in New York City last week. The theme of the briefings, “Sustainable Lives, Sustainable World, Sustainable Goals,” featured speakers Ambassador Kamau (Permanent Representative Republic of Kenya and Co-Chair Post 2015 Development), Magdy Martínez-Solimán (Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme) and Jeannine English (AARP President), amongst many other dignitaries.

Deb Whitman (Executive Vice President for Policy, Strategy, and International Affairs), Ambassador Kamau and Mr. Martínez-Solimán kicked off Day 1 discussions, focusing on the challenges of unprecedented global population growth coupled with rapid worldwide aging. The gauntlet was extended to UN Member States to address these issues through sustainable policy development designed to “leave no one behind.”

Myrna Blyth (Senior Vice President and Editorial Director, AARP) moderated a panel discussion with Melanne Verveer (Executive Director, Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University) and Lloyd Russell-Boyle (Deputy Organising Partner, UN Major Group Children and Youth) which touched on the post-2015 development agenda stemming from the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) at the end of this year. Adopted in September 2000, the UN Millennium Declaration (commonly referred to as the Millennium Development Goals), saw the largest gathering of world leaders committing to a series of eight time-bound targets culminating at the end of 2015. The post-2015 agenda was discussed including an ambitious, long-term plan to improve people’s lives and protect the planet for future generations. Issues expected to be included in the agenda include ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting oceans and forests.

AARP blog pic #2Numerous statistics were shared during the briefings (which made me want to immediately contribute to my 401k). Of particular concern: women are more likely to live longer than men, but they are also more likely to live out their years in poor health, poverty and to experience violence, abuse and discrimination. In addition:

  • Two people celebrate their sixtieth birthday every second (almost 58 million sixtieth birthday annually).
  • By 2020, for the first time in history, people aged 60+ will outnumber children younger than 5 years.
  • By 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion (21% of the population), up from 841 million today.

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Rosemary Lane (Senior Social Affairs Officer – UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and Jeannine English (President, AARP) kicked off the second day of briefings which was focused on data collection or more precisely, the lack thereof when it comes to older persons. Jean Pierre Gonnot (Chief, Social Integration Branch, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) moderated a panel with Toby Porter (Chief Executive – HelpAge International) and Francesca Perucci (Chief, Statistical Services Branch, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs). The US perspective was offered by Kathy Greenlee (Assistant Secretary for Aging, US Department of Health and Human Services). In order to proactively establish policy goals and then chart progress against targets, the panel (and other speakers) certainly sold the need for disaggregated population data. Josh Collett (Vice President, International Affairs, AARP) closed the briefings on a positive note with “much done, much to do.”

AARP - UN Briefing Series on Global Aging

(1-tor) Francesca Perucci, Jean Pierre Gonnot and Toby Porter discussing the need for data on older persons.

Although there were certainly a lot of challenging statistics and issues discussed, I was encouraged by the brilliant minds in the room fighting to overcome the many cultural barriers that marginalize the contributions of older people across the world. Thank you to Holly Schulz (Editorial Manager, AARP International Affairs) for including me in the briefings!