Is the WHO engaging in age discrimination?

The draft of the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) 13th General Programme of Work was released in early January of this year. Based on what they have read, a number of academics have denounced the WHO for “washing its hands of older people.”

This accusation is based on the fact that the five-year program makes no mention of age-related illnesses such as dementia. According to the academics who’ve penned this damning accusation, the program was written in spite of the fact that the global population of people above 60 years old is expected to rise by 2030. Moreover, as much as 10 percent of the population in less well-developed areas will fall into this age group by the same year.

The academics, Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Martin McKee, and Shah Ebrahim, acknowledged that older people have greater healthcare needs compared to younger people. However, they still have a lot to offer in terms of “societal contributions.” Specifically, it’s the individuals who comprise this age group that tend to take care of children (most often their grandchildren) and disabled adults without pay.

“Improved health of older people is an essential goal to reduce health-care costs and maintain the societal support older people provide,” the researchers wrote. (Related: Senior healthcare costs skyrocket to $245,000 per year despite Obama’s empty promises.)

They continued: “Although WHO has begun to address this key global challenge over the past decade, the proposed 13th General Programme of Work makes no reference to older people or conditions associated with later life, such as dementia, which is unacceptable.”

Speaking to, Lloyd-Sherlock noted that the WHO had also written a document about non-communicable diseases. It covered ailments such as cancer, stroke, and diabetes. But rather than approaching these diseases by taking all age groups into consideration, Lloyd-Sherlock stated that the document was focused wholly on those who were below the age of 70 years old. Furthermore, the document was encouraging countries to cut back their spending on older people by about 25 percent.

Lloyd-Sherlock vilified the WHO further and described the document as “part of a wider pattern of explicit discrimination against older people in global health policy.”

A spokesperson for the WHO responded to these accusations by stating that the program Lloyd-Sherlock and his colleagues read through was an old draft. A new and updated version is set to be released before May, when the World Health Assembly will take place. The spokesperson added that the WHO “acknowledged the importance of aging as the top ‘issue heard’ and publicly stated [their] commitment to implement [the] WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health.”

Fast facts about old age

  • Four out of five older adults will have at least one chronic disease, like arthritis or osteoporosis.
  • On average, people who are 75 years old and above visit their doctors three times more than people between the ages of 22 to 44 years.
  • Less than four percent of people above 65 years of age are in nursing homes. Older men are more likely to be with their spouses, while older women are more prone to living alone.

Visit for more facts or news about older people and their health.

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