Healthy Ageing in Pakistan
Ageing is a reality and thus healthy ageing is a very important topic but it is neglected over the years in Pakistan. Being the fifth populous country in the world, Pakistan is among those 10 countries where there are more than 10 million people are old. People over 60-year age are considered old, 60 years old people don’t need to fulfill all the characteristics of old people. 60 years is just a threshold. The statistics from 2019 show that almost 15 million people living in Pakistan are aged over 60 which is 7% of the country’s total population. The proportion of older people is expected to double to 12% in 2050 with 40 million people aged over 60. With such a burgeoning number of old-age people, the country needs to develop a proper system to facilitate these people, which the country currently lacks. In order, to highlight this important issue Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) and Social Protection Resource Centre (SPRC) arranged a joint webinar on healthy ageing in Pakistan.
- World Health Organization (WHO) defined healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables the well-being in older age”. Furthermore, the Active Ageing Index has defined as “the situation where people can live healthy, independent and secure lives as they age and thus continue to participate in the formal labor market as well as engage in other unpaid productive activities (such as volunteering and care provision to family members)”.
- Apart from it, the Model of Successful Aging has explained three main attributes, such as;
- Low risk of disease and disease-related disability,
- Maintenance of mental and physical functioning, and
- Continuing engagement with life- through relations with others and productive activities.
- The Social Protection Resource Center has evaluated few determinants of ageing like; functional disability, social participation, property ownership, autonomous income, household decision making, mental health, volunteer work age discrimination, and employment status.
Based on the above definitions it is a clear fact that population ageing brings profound consequences as economic, social, and health problems.
- Global Age Watch Index (GAWI) analyses the data available internationally to estimate and monitor vital aspects of the socio-economic wellbeing of the older population globally. GAWI considers income security, health status, employment and education, and enabling environments. Pakistan’s rank was 92 out of 96 in 2015 and 81 in the domain of enabling societies and environment which is quite low. It indicates that Pakistan needs to overcome this worsening situation to cope with the prevailing population structure.
- Old age people suffer from multifaceted problems like discrimination, loneliness, depression, neglect, scarcity of resources, limited access to health services, balanced diet, exercise, and proper attention. They are excluded from society and decision-making. Apart from social problems, ageing people face many health problems. With increasing age, the demand for health services also increases. As older people suffer from both degenerative and communicable diseases due to the ageing of the body’s immune system. The leading causes of morbidity are infections, while visual impairment, difficulty in walking, chewing, hearing, osteoporosis, arthritis, and incontinence are other common health-related problems. And thus old people face many hardships in their last years.
- Neglecting the old age problems from both the government and society has exacerbated this prevailing problem. Being a developing country the demographic transaction is causing many problems for the growing old-age people. Although this problem is on the rise yet, the state has not devised any substantial policy for their welfare. Some sporadic work in the shape of welfare homes for the aged in the province of Punjab and Sind has been established, but the intake of the elderly in these homes shows a different attitude of the public and the services are underutilized because of cultural and religious reasons. The main problems that the aged face in our society are; their poverty, the abuse of elderly people within families, lack of state-sponsored social security, and health problems.
The miseries of old age people can be lessened by taking some proper step in the right direction and their lives can be enhanced. It can be done by Improving coordination between local administration and non-governmental and private bodies working for the older people, enhancing employment and educational opportunities for older men and women, making better access to quality healthcare by the adoption of WHO’s plan on health and ageing, Providing adequate support for societies and families taking care for older people, and Encouraging campaigns to eliminate negative stereotypes of the elderly population and intergenerational solidarity. Moreover, providing a healthy and supportive environment can make old age more healthy and better.