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close this bookLiving Conditions of Low-income Older Persons in Human Settlements UNCHS (Habitat) (HABITAT, 1999, 38 p.)
close this folderPART 1
View the documentI. Conclusions
View the documentII. Recommendations (To National and Local Governments)

II. Recommendations (To National and Local Governments)

In view of these conditions and trends it was recommended by the participants in the Netherlands Workshop that governments take a fresh look at the policies, legislation and programmes affecting their aging population and consider revised approaches such as those set forth below. Each government will have to develop and enact programmes reflecting the most urgent needs and potentials of their aging population.

While most policy statements and reports have focused on the health and welfare needs of older people, this is recognized in this study as only one aspect of the problem. If the proportion of the aging population in developing countries increases from 8 percent to 25 percent in the next 50 years, as projected by the UN Population Division; the governments of these countries will have to adjust their policies and legal systems to cope with this change. The major impact of this trend will be in cities where the aging trends are combined with even more rapid increases in the total urban population.

While modest improvements can be expected in governments’ health and welfare services major changes will have to be made to increase the length of active employment. This will be necessary to maintain a sufficient number and proportion of men and women in the active labour force needed to maintain their national economies. Lengthening the period of active employment will have the twofold effect of reducing welfare expenditures and increasing tax revenues.

Shelter conditions and rights

1. Encourage and provide incentives to older people to continue sharing their family dwellings and maintain their traditional role as members and leaders of families. Urge younger family members to respect their elders and share their homes with them;

2. Provide legal land tenure, security of occupancy and prevent illegal evictions, particularly to squatters;

3. Assure people’s right of choice of where to live;

4. Provide sites at affordable costs and low interest loans to purchase building materials;

5. Establish minimum housing standards: accessible; affordable; of durable materials; adequate indoor and outdoor spaces; with minimum sanitary facilities: water, sewage and solid waste disposal;

6. Organize the older persons groups so they can join in building and maintaining their dwellings with the help of their families and neighbours;

7. For those unable to remain in family households: Alternative housing types: group homes with shared facilities; assisted living schemes, and congregate homes in areas with accessible social and community services;

8. Strategies to improve housing for older persons:

· Provide a voice in processes related to their living conditions;
· Empower community organizations in housing improvement and development;
· Promote the role of NGOs, CBOs and public-private sector cooperation in housing development.

Health maintenance

Health care is the most expensive social service, and in many cases its requirements are beyond the limited means of developing country governments. Aging persons have increasing problems as they grow older and require more frequent access to health care facilities. However, many health complaints are minor and do not require professional medical services.

1. Information, Education and Communication are essential keys to provision of health services to the elderly, to inform them of available services, educate them on health maintenance and enabling them to call for or gain access to clinics and hospitals.

2. Minor health services should be available at clinics or community centres.

3. Public transport at reduced fares for access to distant hospitals and clinics.

4. Subsidize health care and medicines for indigent ageing persons.

5. Home care to be provided by NGOs or trained older persons where governments cannot provide.

The residential environment

1. Provide protection from crime, discrimination, traffic and other hazards, with adequate police and fire fighting services.

2. Ensure that housing sites are non-hazardous. Avoid too-steep slopes and flood-prone locations; free of air, water and soil pollution; dumps, hazards, noise and odors.

3. Infrastructure: Safe access for pedestrians by road or path, water supply, electricity, and fuels for cooking and heating at affordable costs.

4. Transport services, accessible and at reduced, affordable fares for elderly persons to reach community facilities, churches, schools, shops and community centres.

Social services

Only very limited social services for the elderly can be provided in developing countries due to the scarcity of funds and traditions under which such facilities and services are not a part of the dominant rural cultures where families provide such support. Such services are more necessary in urban societies where citizens have become more dependent on government services. Local governments, in addition to providing schools, parks, health clinics and community centres, can therefore assure the provision of the following services:

1. Accessible retail shops and services provided by the private sector are a necessity for older people.

2. Religious facilities (churches, mosques) which are a traditional source of social contacts and in some cases provide services such as health services, recreation and home visits.

3. Encourage and support the activities of NGOs and CBOs in providing home health visits, meals on wheels, etc.

Maintaining livelihood

1. Older persons 60 to 70 be viewed as a valuable resource and not a burden or liability; legislation should no longer consider them along with the disabled.

2. Retirement and pension age levels be increased from 60 to at least 65, and possibly 70.

3. Employment policies encourage those with employable skills to continue working.

4. Those without skills be given vocational training for jobs or activities enabling them to be self-sufficient, or at least contributing to their livelihood.

5. Prohibit discriminatory practices in formal employment and discrimination against older people and women.

6. Recognize and support the vital role of the informal sector of the economy, and in providing work opportunities and income for the poor elderly and disabled. Since in many countries it is the largest source of employment, ways should be developed to legitimize and regulate its operations and provide some local or income tax contribution.

7. Promote opportunities for community and group income generating activities.

8. Offer small business loans on friendly terms to older people

9. Recognize non-paid, informal household work in national economic statistics; and desegregate by age and gender in national census statistics,


1. Promote civil rights and respect for the elderly among children and others.

2. Promote independence and responsibility among elderly to encourage their continued leadership in family life.

3. Government policies and the media to urge the ageing to actively participate in community activities; particularly in decision-making on matters affecting their interest and well being.

4. Break down barriers faced by older people that discriminate, deny their rights and exclude them economically, social and politically.

5. Encourage older people to express their opinions and needs, and for younger generations to listen to them.

Gender considerations

As in most countries women live longer than men, the majority of ageing population are usually women. In developing countries, older women present the most serious problems and greatest needs for a number of reasons:

- They are less likely to have received formal education
- They are less likely to have savings or material resources;
- They frequently are not allowed to own property;
- They are less likely to have received paid employment and have savings or a pension;
- They are more likely to have health problems due to hard physical work and child bearing.

For these reasons governments can reduce the problems and cost of providing assistance to aging women by:

- Enacting laws protecting women’s rights and forbidding sex discrimination;
- Protecting the rights of women to own land, have their own savings accounts and receive loans;
- Provide for equal pay for equal work and rights to pensions