Throughout history, responsibility for older persons was assumed to lie with the family. Reflecting this shared human experience, many ageing and population policies in Asia have been based on families as the source of support in old age. The community or – as last resort – the government was expected to intervene only in cases of extreme neglect and deprivation.
The 2018 HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference in Tehran, Iran, will examine the theme of Family, Community and State in Ageing Societies from various perspectives, learning from the rich experience of the international participants and presenters. Where there is a vision for their ageing societies, societies and their governments can adapt. So, part of the success of the conference will be to share a vision of ageing societies that are fair and equitable for current and future older people.
But populations are now ageing at unprecedented speed. The shifting demographic context is affecting families, and Asian governments are struggling to understand how best to respond. Fertility has declined sharply and people are living longer. Nuclear families are becoming smaller and, with migration, more scattered. Women typically live longer than men and therefore form the majority of older populations, particularly in the oldest age groups. Women increasingly join the labour force, yet expectations of continued unpaid caregiving intensify the pressure on female family members.
In addition, the older individual as actor – presumed to be dependent on others – was largely absent from past policy discussions. The older person was viewed as the object of care by others. Now, with life expectancy extending, older people are spending more active years in relative independence and taking increased responsibility for their own care and affairs. The dynamics between older people and their families are evolving, along with consensus on how one lives the later years of life.
Families will continue to be the foundation of societies as they age, but households will increasingly need support. In light of the emerging population and family dynamics throughout the Asia region, how are responsibilities and expectations changing? How can population-wide policies and national or local services best assist families? Learning from international evidence, how can government promote functional independence in old age, thus reducing and delaying the care that older people need from others? What should be the role of local communities and civil society bodies in evolving societies, and how can government nurture those roles? What are appropriate functions for the private sector as societies age?
Three breakout streams
Day 1 of the conference will assess the trends in population ageing and family dynamics, as well as how communities and governments across Asia have responded.
Day 2, the conference will then examine policies and services to ease adaptation to these trends particularly in relation to (1) social inclusion, (2) income security, and (3) long-term care.
Day 3 offers a choice of local field trips to understand the approaches in Iran.
Previous regional conferences: