Friday, 7 September 2012


I met an old woman recently. At least that is what I presumed. She was graying. But the truth was that she was hardly old. Aged by circumstance and not by progression, aged by the difficulties life forced on her, and aged by problems. She was not even 50 years old. But she got me thinking, of the plight of many aged women across the world. While women tend to outlive men in terms of life expectancy, the quality of life of women is oft compromised without any specific understanding of the older women’s physical, functional and mental health needs.

The inter-relationship between ageing and disability among all women is quite evident. Long-term health prospects of women are influenced by changes at menopause, which, in combination with lifelong conditions, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, may increase the risk of disabilities. The risk of falling into poverty is greater for women than for men, particularly in old age where social security is based on the principle of continuous remunerated employment. The low educational level of older women challenges their full participation in the public and political life of the country too. 

Older women are particularly vulnerable to physical, sexual, and psychological harm because of their economic and physical dependency both within the family and in society in general. This abuse often remains hidden and is therefore ignored. Aging women suffer issues right from appearances and weight and ends, may be in some sort of heart diseases or diabetes or bone weakness (osteoarthritis) and others. In women, the age sixty or sixty-five is a warning sign. This age brings many clinical health conditions. The demographic transition underway in Latin America and the Caribbean countries reveals that the proportion of people over 60 years of age will triple between 2000 and 2050.  The UN Secretary General stated in the General Assembly in 2010 that, ‘In 2050, for the first time in human history, there will be more persons over 60 than children in the globe, who might face diverse human rights challenges depending on their context.’

Postmenopausal conditions and diseases tend to be neglected in research, academic studies, public policy, and service provision. Thus, Health care service provision must be affordable, appropriate and accessible especially for those who live in rural areas. Adequate safety nets must be established and state-based and community based support systems implemented in order to ensure that men and women are on equal footing. The goal of equal access to education must be advanced by taking measures to eliminate discrimination in education at all levels on the basis of gender, race, language, religion, national origin, age or disability, or any other form of discrimination, and as appropriate, consider establishing procedures to address grievances. Improved gender-disaggregated and age-specific data on victims and perpetrators of all forms of violence against women of all ages must be developed. Old age is considered to be second phase of childhood when optimum love and care are required.

Written by Aakshi Kalra

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