Ageing in the Age of Inequality


If you ask me about my greatest fear, I would answer without thinking “Growing old”! Being in my thirties, I am always haunted by this idea; I worry more when I think that the prime of my life has already passed me by. They always say that life begins at forty, or whatever; yet, I fear ageism and the unfairness associated to it in every single domain of life at a later age.

Younger people often associate growing older with sadness and health problems. Contrary to common belief, older persons actually enjoy life more as long as they look after themselves; as the famous quote goes: “It is not the years in your life that count; it is the life in your years”. Well, this sounds great; returning to reality, you still come face to face with ageism.

More occasionally, older people lack good healthcare benefits and family support, especially those living in secluded areas. Improper services, transportation, and infrastructure hinder the elderly from performing simple everyday tasks. In addition, financial inequalities exist among older persons themselves. This forms a stress on them as they are excluded from care services, resources, prosperity, and decent work, amongst others. As a result, more older people worldwide live in poverty in both developed and developing countries.

Stakeholders—including governments, academic institutions, and decision-makers—work hard to address the needs and interests of older persons, by finding more innovative and immediate solutions. These changes shall by all means help in fulfilling the adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that “no one will be left behind”. It provides attention to promoting equality and inclusion, and the Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to reduce inequality within and among countries to ensure equal opportunities, eliminate discrimination, and empower inclusion of all, among other aims.

The inequalities experienced by older people are indeed an ethical challenge before being an economic or a political one. Determining the quality of our later lives must be irrespective of age, gender, disability, origin, religion, economic, or other status. There is a need to develop and maintain a functional process that fosters healthy and active ageing. An age-friendly world—as termed by the World Health Organization (WHO)—shall remove barriers and develop policies, systems, and services across the human life course.

Nothing Is Inevitable—Except Getting Older!

To grow old is inevitable; it is also a privilege. If you are not getting older, you are simply dead, or there is a possibility that you are a zombie! Getting older brings greater inequality, unless policy, action, and appropriate intervention are employed. In an increasingly ageing world, older people have a significant role to play within their communities, and a reduced inequality should be applied in all countries for the benefit of present and future generations.

Addressing inequalities in later life is never too late. People and communities can make changes and improve behaviors at any age; decision and policymakers can do the same. These positive changes will indeed bring benefits at any age; always remember that “there is life left to be lived”.


*The original article was published in SCIplanet, Sustainable Development Goals II (Spring 2019).

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