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We’re Getting Old: Let’s Celebrate with a Paradigm Change!

Margaret Arnold's picture

Happy International Day of Older Persons! The United Nations established this day of observance in 1990 as a way to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. If we are not there already, we will all eventually be joining the growing global population of elders.  According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and up will double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050. 

The World Bank Social Develpment department’s upcoming report. Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, details the impacts of social exclusion on people’s well-being and on society overall. Unfortunately, aging is typically viewed as decline, and our elders are often marginalized both socially and physically (in nursing homes or other institutions). 

My own eyes were opened to this about a year ago, when I met Emi Kiyota, founder and president of Ibasho, an NGO that develops simple and low-cost solutions to integrate elders into their communities. Having worked on disasters and resilience for some time, I have always advocated for empowering women and marginalized groups to drive their recovery process. But I had to admit that I still listed older people as a “vulnerable group” to be cared for. After learning about Ibasho’s work, I invited Emi to share her experience with World Bank staff. She provided a beautiful example of the benefits of providing opportunities for older people to actively take part in disaster recovery and community development.