Welcome message from Mary Ann Taso, HelpAge Network representative

HelpAge Asia-Pacific Regional Conference: The Economic Implications of Ageing
Hanoi, Vietnam

6 September 2016

Good morning.

Over the past 20 years as part of the HelpAge Network, I have attended 14 HelpAge regional conferences.  At my first one, in 1996 in Macau, we discussed health and care practices for older people with a much smaller group. That was back when we were primarily civil society organisations built up around principles like those that my grandmother used to found the Tsao Foundation. We were working to recognise the value and honour of older people and to ensure that, in an age of shrinking family sizes and changing cultural values, older people would not be forgotten.

Over the past 25 years, Asia has undergone dramatic economic growth, population ageing and increased life expectancies. Our older population has grown as well, in size, in improved health and in increased capability. They are largely a huge resource, in many cases underutilised, with skills acquired through life and legitimacy in their communities. Their energy and capacity is to be considered when discussing the economic contribution they make and can make to their families, communities, societies and economies.

The HelpAge network has responded to these changes. While we have continued to work for vulnerable older people, we have expanded our work, as a network, to include recognising population ageing as a key demographic transition, one that influences every aspect of government and society.

With this conference theme, we look again to the future. Population ageing is no longer a side-line issue, but is high on the agenda of governments and organisations working towards the wellbeing of their populations. And so it is appropriate that the scale of this conference – over 300 participants from over 35 countries – and its theme – the economic implications of ageing – are also in tune with this rapid change.

The speed and scale of the demographic change challenges us all as we seek to create a world in which people of all ages can thrive. No response can be handled by any one of us; it requires all of us, young and old – policy makers, academics, international organisations, health workers, carers, civil society, private sector, the media and many others.

It is a privilege to be here in Vietnam for this conference and we are grateful to the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Social Welfare and Invalids (MOLISA) for co-hosting this conference. MOLISA and the HelpAge network have developed a strong collaborative relationship over the years.

MOLISA is hosting this conference with the enthusiasm, determination and generosity that make Vietnam a very special place in this region and in the world. Thank you Your Excellencies for allowing us to experience Vietnam and to learn from your experience.

The HelpAge Network is also proud of the partnership that we have with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), co-hosts with HelpAge and MOLISA. Their commitment to ensure the well being of older people in the scope of demographic change is remarkable. We cherish the strong partnership that has been developed.

In closing, I would also like to recognise the support of the European Union, the LIFT Consortium in Myanmar, Age International, and WHO Vietnam as well as the Asian Forum for Parliamentarians on Population and Development for enabling the participation of participants from across the region.

I hope that during these days together, you discover new perspectives, think new thoughts, forge new connections, make new friends and recognise new opportunities.

Thank you.