An older world is a more female world
Although men outnumber women until the age of 50, women outnumber men at older ages due to their longer life expectancies. By 2030, 54 per cent of the world’s 1.4 billion older people will be female, and 60 per cent of people aged 80 and over.
Partly due to their longer life expectancy, women spend a greater proportion of their lives in ill health or with a disability. This means they face greater need for health and care services support. At the same time, as many as 70 per cent of the health and care workforce globally are women, and women and girls of all ages – including older women – are the main providers of informal care.
Discrimination based on age and gender
Gendered ageism and intersecting discrimination that older women experience when accessing services violates their right to health and care on an equal basis with others.
“I don’t like to visit the hospital because I don’t feel respected as a woman, and I don’t get to choose the sex of the physician. If you paid money [for the service] things would be different.” 69-year-old woman from Jordan.
“There are no support services available to older people in my community. Only family members provide assistance with daily activities. But this does not happen for all.” 71-year-old woman, from Nepal.
The challenges they face, rooted in both age and gender discrimination, undermine their ability to receive quality health and care services, and support. This discriminatory treatment, compounded by discrimination on the basis of health status, disability, socioeconomic status, exacerbates the disparities faced by older women.
Increased medical costs puts older people’s health at risk
Recent research “Things have just gotten worse” The impact of the global food, fuel and finance crisis on older people ,HelpAge carried out looking at the fuel, food and finance crisis found that older people are experiencing an increase in the cost of healthcare, ranging from 35 to 70 percent, which has meant that thousands are going without, with often fatal consequences.
The research conducted shows that higher fuel and transport costs prevent older people from accessing hospitals and clinics to receive treatment. Again, older women were shown to be disproportionately affected.
For many older people, it has become harder to access health services since the crisis hit. The increased cost of transport and fuel has prevented older people from accessing hospitals, clinics and other services across 10 researched countries.
An older woman in Sheikh Othman in Yemen said: “I don’t have any savings now. To the contrary, we have debts, and we don’t know how to cover them. Because of this crisis, I sold a bottle of gas to provide my husband with treatment.”
Physical barriers hinder essential health services
For many older women, geographical distance poses a significant hurdle. Living in remote areas or regions with limited healthcare infrastructure, they often have to travel long distances to reach hospitals, clinics, or specialized facilities. This not only adds to their physical strain but also increases the costs associated with transportation.
“[The health clinic] is too far for me to walk to. It takes a day to get there on foot and I don’t have enough money to go by bus.” 89-year-old woman, Mozambique.