Health and care policy

All people, including those in older age have the right to health.

Yet most health systems have responded inadequately to the health and care challenges faced older women and men. A nurse looks after an older patient in Haiti. A nurse looks after an older patient in Haiti. (c) Frederic Dupoux/HelpAge International

As populations age worldwide, systems need to be strengthened to address the increasing complexity of health and care issues faced by people in older age.

Older women and men often struggle to access the health and care services they need due to:

  • physical and financial barriers,
  • lack of appropriate services,
  • low levels of awareness of health conditions, 
  • lack of knowledge on their rights and entitlements.

Although many older people are living longer and in better health, and can continue to live full, independent lives with the appropriate support, their needs for both health and social care are likely to become increasingly complex and interdependent in later life.

This calls for radical changes in the way that health and social care systems are developed and services are delivered.

These challenges need to be overcome to enable older women and men to enjoy the best possible health and care and to support their wellbeing right through to the end of their lives.

Older people are the main caregivers in many poor households in low- and middle-income countries. Often, they are caring for other older people and children in their families. This role should be better recognised and supported.

What we want

We are working to convince health service providers and governments to ensure a healthy older age by:

  • Supporting older people to manage chronic illness.
  • Establishing non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, as a key health priority.
  • Improving the availability of appropriate healthcare for people of all ages.
  • Supporting older people's self-care and care-giving within families and communities.
  • Making health and social care affordable for all ages.

Our impact

Some of our successes so far include:

  • Securing better access to health services for 2 million more older people in 22 countries.
  • Helping 170,000 older people received better community care.
  • Working towards significant national policy changes that enable older people to access free or subsidised services achieved in the Philippines, Tanzania and Vietnam.
  • Through our models of home-based care, influencing the practice of government in Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tanzania.
  • Improving national health staff training in Cambodia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
  • Training 9,000 government health staff working in primary health facilities in 20 countries.
  • Initiating the development of the first field tool to assess the outcomes on older people's health and wellbeing of health and care interventions.
  • Building strategic partnerships with leading agencies to advance our work on non-communicable diseases, mental health and data - including the World Health Organization, Alzheimer's Disease International and Handicap International.

Striking facts

  • Nearly two in three deaths worldwide are due to chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancers.
  • 80% of these chronic diseases occur in low and middle-income countries.
  • Women outlive men by up to eight years on average, but suffer more chronic illness and disability in old age.

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