The World Health Organisation (WHO) today launched a groundbreaking new report on women's health. It is seen as the first major step forward on the debate on older women's health, an issue largely ignored in international development.
"Women and health: today's evidence, tomorrow's agenda" highlights the fact that, despite some progress, societies are still failing women at key moments in their lives, including in their older years.
All the report's key findings affect older women at least as much as any other age group. The "widespread and persistent inequities" mentioned in the report apply to disparities between the health of men and women.
Older carers need good healthcare
Mark Gorman, Director of Strategic Development at HelpAge International commented on the new report:
"Women outlive men in nearly all developing countries, but many are likely to live out their old age in chronic ill-health.
"Good health is as much a right for women in later life as at any other age, yet health service providers rarely take this into account. For example, how many reproductive health programmes include post-menopausal women in their target groups?
"Maintaining good health is even more important for older women because many continue to care for others well into old age.
"Across sub-Saharan Africa grandmothers are the primary caregivers for people living with HIV and AIDS and their orphaned grandchildren. This care is often unrecognised and unsupported, and is given by women whose own health is at risk from this additional care burden."
An attainable goal
The report also highlights other conditions which affect older women, including loss of sight. Every year 2.5 million older women go blind. Many of these cases could be prevented if they were able to get better eye care.
Mark Gorman adds:
"The WHO report rightly calls for age-friendly environments for older women. This includes access to appropriate healthcare services which cater for older women's particular needs. Good health for older women in all societies is an attainable goal."