Alarming challenges faced by older people in Myanmar

Gender disparities, healthcare obstacles, and food insecurity among urgent concerns.


The latest report by HelpAge International, “Situational Overview of Older People’s Needs in Myanmar,” has revealed distressing realities faced by older individuals in the country.

  • 72 per cent of older women and 54 per cent of older men report inadequate access to food.
  • 60 per cent of older women and 52 per cent of older men are unable to access health services.
  • 71 per cent of older people express feelings of worries, anxiety, and loneliness.
  • 68 per cent of older individuals have less than a week’s worth of savings.

The comprehensive study, conducted among 200 older people in May and June 2023 across 18 townships in six states and regions, presents a profound analysis of the hurdles older people encounter, emphasising the need for immediate action and targeted interventions to enhance their well-being. 

Situational Overview of Older People’s Needs in Myanmar

This report highlights a deteriorating situation for older people in Myanmar across multiple areas, including health access, financial stability, food security, mental health, and protection concerns.

Urgent attention and targeted interventions are needed to address these challenges and improve the wellbeing and quality of life for older people in Myanmar.

Read the report here

Hunger at their doorstep – challenges in food security

There is a pressing concern of food insecurity among older people in Myanmar, with significant gender disparities. Access to sufficient food remains an uphill battle, as 72 per cent of older women and 54 per cent of older men reported inadequate access to food, while 79 per cent of all older people report compromising the quality of their meals. Socio-economic inequalities disproportionately impact older women, making it imperative to address financial constraints hindering their ability to afford food. 

“Even though I would like to eat, we have no food at home. Instead, I drink water at night to fill my stomach.” 

Healthcare on the brink due to inaccessibility 

Challenges persist in healthcare access for both older women and men in Myanmar.  60 per cent of older women and 52 per cent of older men reported an inability to access health services. Factors like safe access to health facilities, distance, service unavailability, and the affordability of medicines contribute to this divide, demanding enhanced healthcare support, with targeted interventions needed to address gender inequalities. 

“Medicine prices are too high, and I can’t afford them. Instead, I am taking traditional medicines, but in the long run, my health is deteriorating.” 

Weathering mental health challenges 

 71 per cent of older people in Myanmar express feelings of worries, anxiety, and loneliness, with concerns primarily centred around health, income, and safety. Older women expressed higher levels of worries overall, while older men voiced heightened fears for their safety due the ongoing conflict in their areas. Addressing these mental health challenges necessitates fostering connections among older people and creating platforms for mutual support and knowledge-sharing. 

“People have become more friendly with one another, and neighbours are taking more care of each other”. 

Falling through the cracks: the precarious state of income security and borrowing 

Gender disparities are evident in income security among older individuals, underscoring the financial struggles faced by older women. 78 per cent of older women and 72 per cent of older men do not have a stable income source. A staggering 68 per cent of individuals have less than a week’s worth of savings, indicating a deteriorating economic situation. Moreover, relying solely on income often proves insufficient to cover living costs, leading older people to resort to borrowing money. 

Immediate actions for improving older peoples’ well-being

In response to the alarming findings, HelpAge International proposes targeted recommendations to address the pressing challenges faced by older people in Myanmar: 

  • Enhance food security: Allocate resources for tailored food assistance programs and support sustainable agricultural initiatives
  • Improve healthcare access: Invest in better healthcare availability and affordability, along with age-sensitive care training for community workers
  • Strengthen mental health support: Allocate funding for tailored psychosocial support, counselling, and awareness-raising efforts
  • Enhance protection measures: Create safe spaces and implement training to prevent abuse and exploitation
  • Promote gender equality: Adopt a gender-responsive approach, empowering older women economically
  • Build local capacity: Provide training and support to local NGOs and community organisations to address older people’s needs effectively.