Ageing in the 21st Century: Foreword by Babatunde Osotimehin


"Population ageing is a major trend with global implications.

"With one in nine persons in the world aged 60 years or over, projected to increase to one in five by 2050, population ageing is a phenomenon that we can no longer ignore."

Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund.

A cause for celebration...

Increasing longevity is one of humanity's greatest achievements. Indeed, population ageing is cause for celebration.

The opportunities that this presents are as endless as the contributions that a socially and economically active, secure and healthy ageing population can bring to society.

And also a challenge...

Opportunities come with challenges, however. Population ageing presents social, economic and cultural challenges to individuals, families, societies and the global community.

It is how we choose to address the challenges and maximize the opportunities of a growing older population that will determine the future of humankind.

This report, our contribution to the Madrid+10 review and appraisal process, takes stock of progress since the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing in 2002.

A review of progress

Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and A Challenge is based on an assessment of progress since the Second World Assembly on Ageing in 2002 in the three priority areas identified in Madrid:

  • development,
  • health and well-being
  • enabling and supportive environments.

It reviews progress in policies and actions taken by governments and other stakeholders in response to Madrid's call for creating a society for all ages.

First-hand accounts from older people themselves

Its unique feature is a focus on the voices of older persons themselves, captured through group discussions with older men and women in 36 countries around the world.

The first-hand accounts and testimonies of older persons help to ensure that the perspectives of the older population are better understood and acted upon.

Ageing is a lifelong process

The report identifies gaps and proposes the way forward with recommendations to ensure an age-friendly world in which everyone, including older persons, is given the opportunity to contribute to development and share in its benefits, the voices of all age groups are heard, and all persons are included in decision-making that affects them.

Ageing is a lifelong process that does not start at age 60. Today's young people will be part of the 2 billion-strong population of older persons in 2050. A better world for younger people today will mean a better world for older persons in 2050.

The report shows that there has been some important progress since Madrid. A number of countries have approved national policies, plans, programmes or strategies on ageing and older persons and some have approved age-specific legislation since 2002. But we know that policies and legislation alone are not sufficient to make a real change in the quality of life of older persons.

Strong policies and legislation are essential

Policies and legislation must be enforced so that older persons can enjoy their human rights, and programmes must be implemented and monitored to ensure that they reach those most in need.

We need all data to be disaggregated by age and sex, and we need more research on the situation of older persons to inform policy.

The report is the culmination of three years of work which the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) began with the United Nations Regional Commissions and HelpAge International by preparing an overview of available policies and legislation, data and research, and institutional arrangements relating to older persons.

We wish to thank all the agencies, organisations and older people involved.


This is a summary of the full foreword in Ageing and the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge.

Download the preface, forward and introduction of Ageing in the Twenty-First Century (701kb).

Download the full report, Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge (2.84kb).


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