HelpAge at 40

Advocating for the rights and voice of older people for 40 years.

HelpAge International has been advocating for the rights and voice of older people for 40 years. Dive into our history, discover our milestones, and explore our innovative solutions to complex problems.

In November 1983, five organisations from around the world came together to set up HelpAge International. Their founding vision was to create a global network of grassroots organisations that would champion the rights and wellbeing of older people worldwide.   

In the last 40 years HelpAge has worked with the growing global network to increase awareness of older people and the discrimination they might face, their rights, the support they might need and the contribution they can make to society. 

Join us in reflecting on the significant achievements in our work over the past four decades.

Witness the remarkable growth and evolution of our efforts in making a meaningful impact in the lives of older people.

Key Milestones

The Beginning

HelpAge International is founded on 19 November 1983 by Sir Leslie Kirkley to start a global network of equal organisations working openly together to support older people around the world.


HIV/AIDS work begins in both Africa and Asia to challenge the idea that the epidemic only affects younger people and to support older people who are infected or who are caring for their orphaned grandchildren.

Rwanda genocide

HelpAge responds to the genocide in Rwanda, supporting refugees crossing the border into Tanzania.

Guidelines on responding to older people in emergencies

HelpAge publishes its first guidelines on how to respond to older people’s needs in emergencies and develop a more inclusive humanitarian response.

Earthquake in India

When a major earthquake strikes in Gujarat, HelpAge works with HelpAge India to deliver its first humanitarian response in Asia. Working with new partners, the experience provides a basis for their response to the tsunami that struck the region almost four years later.

Livingstone Call for Action

As the first INGO to champion social protection, our advocacy work hits a milestone with the Livingstone Call for Action. The African Union declaration outlines a commitment for social protection for all, including older people.

Age Demands Action

HelpAge launches Age Demands Action, the first global coordinated campaign which brings together older people’s associations in 26 countries to challenge age discrimination and present their issues to governments.

Campaigning for a UN convention on the rights of older people

Three years after starting to submit evidence of rights violations in different countries to the UN human rights system, HelpAge calls for a UN convention on the rights of older people.

Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize

HelpAge receives the prestigious 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. The award is the world’s largest humanitarian prize and is presented each year to an organisation that has delivered extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering.

Ageing in the 21st Century

This flagship report sets out the challenges for older people in an ageing world and provides a resource for network members and partners to take their work forward.

Global AgeWatch Index

Jordan - Older woman

Our first Global AgeWatch Index, provides country-by-country analysis of older people’s lives. This helps support national advocacy goals and reveals areas that had not been considered before.

Older People’s Associations

After Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines, HelpAge is able to reach isolated areas that others are unable to access through the Older People’s Associations (OPAs) operating in the country.

COVID-19 response

The organisation rolls out a global programme and advocacy response to the COVID-19. HelpAge has continued to advocate for vaccine equity and speak out against the appalling levels of healthcare discrimination brought to light by COVID-19.

Emergency response in Ukraine

HelpAge mounts its largest ever emergency response in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries, reaching over 70,000 people in the first year of the conflict.

Older Not Over

We launch our first global three-year campaign #OlderNotOver to champion a fuller, more authentic portrayal of what life really looks like after 60.

For a deeper dive into our achievements, visit our history page.

In conversation with a founding member

As HelpAge International marks 40 years, we have a conversation with Rita Duarte, 80, who co-founded ProVida Colombia with her husband Eduardo, and became one of the five original founding members of the HelpAge global network.

Q&A – Rita Duarte

Our rich history

In 1983, several visionary organisations from Canada, Colombia, Kenya, India, and the UK joined forces with a shared mission: to make a positive impact on the lives of older people worldwide. 

From these collaborative beginnings emerged HelpAge International, an organisation dedicated to supporting and standing in solidarity with older people across the globe. In its early stages, amidst conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia, the organisation’s founder, Sir Leslie Kirkley, wanted to provide care for older refugees who were otherwise overlooked by existing aid agencies. Since then, HelpAge has evolved into a global collective, collaborating with more than 170 network members and partners in over 90 countries. 

Despite receiving recognition and accomplishing significant milestones, HelpAge International remains committed to its roots, while continuously innovating to promote the wellbeing and inclusion of older women and men. Whether by establishing crucial programmes in Ukraine, advocating for improved social pensions, or coordinating a global emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus has always been on standing alongside older communities, advocating against ageism, and striving for fair access to healthcare. 

As we move forward, we hope that our 40-year journey serves as a testament to the strength found in unity, compassion, and persistent dedication in creating a world where every older person can lead a fulfilling life with dignity and respect. 

Read more about our history here. 


Reflecting on 40 years of HelpAge International

Mark Gorman, a HelpAge Ambassador who worked for the organisation from 1988 to 2021, takes us back to the roots of HelpAge International, and shares insights into the organisation’s evolution, challenges, and impact on global issues.

Reflecting on 40 years of HelpAge International

The future we envision 

HelpAge continues to champion the rights, dignity and wellbeing of older people worldwide. We wield influence through advocacy, policy shaping, and delivering impactful programmes across the world. We envisage a world where age is not a barrier, and every older person is embraced, empowered, and celebrated.  

With our unwavering commitment, we hope to ignite change, spark dialogue, and break down barriers. From remote communities to bustling cities, we want to weave a tapestry of support for older people, building bridges between generations and fostering a future where they are valued and empowered. We want to create a world where all of us, regardless of our age, can stand tall, our voices resounding with echoes of equality, respect, and boundless possibilities. 



Heartwarming testimonials

In celebration of our 40th anniversary, here is what five of the HelpAge global network members have to say about us, each offering their unique perspectives and shedding light on the profound impact of our collective efforts.

HelpAge at 40: What our network members say about us