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close this bookLiving Conditions of Low-income Older Persons in Human Settlements UNCHS (Habitat) (HABITAT, 1999, 38 p.)
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Demographers now predict that in fifty years time one third of the population living in the industrial world will be 60 years and older. The same age group will constitute 21 per cent of the total population in the developing countries. When the trend in increase of ageing populations is considered in parallel with the ongoing rapid urbanization process taking place, particularly in the developing countries, the challenge ahead becomes very significant. Cities all around the world will accommodate more and more senior citizens in the future.

A highly urbanized world, with increasing proportions of older age groups needs a new approach to facilitate societies for all where the young people, older persons, persons with disabilities, men and women, poor and rich - all segments of society - can integrate and live meaningful lives in harmony with their environments. This process needs adoption and implementation of comprehensive, inter-sectoral and inter-generational policies within a long-term strategy. Local authorities have a fundamental role in this process. This is particularly important when issues are related to housing, services, environment and generation of income earning opportunities for the less advantaged.

The Habitat Agenda, the blue print guidelines for human settlements management and development, gives utmost importance to the issues of ageing/older persons and social integration. Fourteen out of 241 paragraphs refer to this topic and elaborate on actions to be taken at both national and local levels. In relation to this, and as a contribution to the International Year of Older Persons, 1999, UNCHS (Habitat), jointly with the Institute of Public Administration, initiated a research project to document and analyze living conditions of low-income older persons in human settlements, and prepared this report.

This research initiative is unique in that its conclusions are based on the expressions of low-income older persons describing their homes and neighbourhoods and their living conditions in the surveys undertaken in twelve major cities. In addition, the research conclusions and recommendations were prepared by the Survey Managers who met at the workshop in Amersfoort, Netherlands, each of whom are professionals in gerontology and other disciplines related to human settlements development and ageing and actively engaged in voluntary or government organizations providing assistance to older persons in need. The findings of this research initiative show that most people in their 60s are able and willing to work and to maintain their homes and neighbourhoods, and should not be considered unproductive, useless or disabled. In fact, their continued participation in the active labour force is essential to national economic well being and social development - particularly in achieving integrated societies for all.

We wish to acknowledge the excellent contribution of Mr. Richard May, Senior Associate of the Institute of Public Administration who jointly with Mr. Selman Erguden, UNCHS (Habitat) Focal Point on Older Persons/Ageing, coordinated this research initiative and drafted this report. We also wish to acknowledge all those whose names are presented in Annex 1 for their invaluable efforts which made it possible to undertake this initiative in so many countries. In conclusion, we wish to express our gratitude to Ms. Mieke Andela-Baur and Mr. Ger J.M. Tielen of the “Netherlands Platform Older People and Europe” who hosted the workshop in Amersfoort, Netherlands in September 1999 where the findings and recommendations of this research initiative were discussed and finalized.

We hope that these findings and recommendations will be useful in initiating further research on this important field “ageing - urbanization” and in assisting the formulation of policies to appropriately address the needs of older persons globally.

Klaus Toepfer
Acting Executive Director
United Nations Centre for Human Settlements

David Mammen
Institute of Public Administration