“I want healthcare for me,” say older people

Today (7 April) on World Health Day, Age Demands Action campaigners are calling for access to age-friendly health services for older people to bring a halt to exclusion, discrimination and stigma.

“Across the world it is unacceptable that older people often miss out on their right to health because of physical and financial barriers, discrimination, lack of appropriate services and being unaware of their entitlements,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive of HelpAge International.

“This year is an important year for development when new global Sustainable Development Goals will be set, including on health, for the next 15 years. By 2050, there will be two billion people over 60 compared with 868 million now. We need to ensure that older people are included and no one is left behind,” said Porter.

In Asian and Pacific region, many older are not able to afford needed health care. The cost of healthcare isn’t the only problem for older people, but also the age-appropriate health and care services. They have specific health concerns, often because of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Older people prefer to stay in their homes and their communities, and community-based care has been found to work very well and be cost-effective. Although most of them are healthy and active, some need assistance with daily living activities.

“We would like to see governments provide free health care for all and be more active in supporting community-based social care. This could include putting in place policies on care, identifying older people who need help, quality control, and increasing the care workforce,” said Eduardo Klien, Regional Director, East Asia/Pacific, HelpAge International

Activists in 34 countries will be calling on their governments to provide age-friendly services.

Age Demands Action campaigners highlight the progress that has been made through previous campaigns and the discrimination that they still face.

In the Philippines
Ernesto Hingzan, 61, lives in Tacloban, and works part-time as a Barangay guard. He was hospitalised and underwent an operation last year on his lungs.

“I received this Senior Citizen ID card from HelpAge and Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE) after Typhoon Haiyan. This card was important to me when I was hospitalised and received a large bill because I used it to get a discount.

“I know that this small card is worth a lot. It has been my passport to information and benefits, so I carry it all the time.”

In Gaza
Consistent campaigning by Age Demands Action activists has resulted in improved health services at Sameera’s health centre.

“When I went to the health clinic, I used to wait a long time and would sometimes leave without being treated,” said Sameera, 62.

“After several meetings with the head of the clinic, we started to see changes for older people. Priority is now given to older men and women and when I hand in my treatment card, I’m treated without delay.”

In Kenya
Kahindi, 84, became ill in 2007. He is still ill but cannot afford to return to the hospital for treatment.

He said: “I went to the nearest hospital but the doctor was not around and they advised me to go back later. Unfortunately, I did not have the money so I have never gone back. The trip was very expensive. I still do not know the cause or name of my illness.

“Whenever I get food, I am encouraged to live on, just because I do not sleep hungry. No one would want to be in this state. My wish is to work and feed myself. I don’t like being dependent, I feel embarrassed but I want to live a happy life. All that I need right now is help to go to hospital and get treated.”

In Moldova
“The medicine I need is very costly and not everything is compensated by the state. I often don’t get it because I have so little money,” said Dontu Iurie, 50, who is disabled and from the Rezina district of Moldova.

“The family doctor is 10km away. It’s very difficult for me to walk and I need to pay to be taken but I don’t have the money,” he said.  “It would be good if doctors would come to the village and provide free consultations to older people so we don’t need to walk such long distances,” he added.

This is a glimpse of what campaigners will be doing on the day:

Fiji: Campaigners will be following up with the government on the draft of the National Wellness Framework and Universal Health Coverage for Older People.  They will also be asking for progress on the introduction of an express card for older people who will be able to access health services around Fiji without being charged from any health provider.

Bangladesh: Older activists will be asking the government to implement Section 12 of the newly approved policy on access to healthcare for older people focusing on age-friendly services and meeting the Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. There will be street plays, rallies and health camps.

Mozambique: Campaigners will be demanding that public hospitals provide free consultations, medication and access to older people, as stipulated in the law 3/2014 (on the promotion and protection of older people’s health rights) passed last year in February. They hope to produce a documentary showing what it’s like to be an older person in need of healthcare, to be screened on national TV. There will also be a community health fair and radio and TV debates across the country.

Tanzania: Health screening for non-communicable diseases and HIV will be held. In some places, health facilities do not have the diagnostic tests and equipment needed available and so the services provided are limited. Our partner in Tanzania the Tanzania Mission to the Poor and Disabled (PADI) plans to buy some important testing kits for the facilities.

Kyrgyzstan: This year, older activists will call for more work to be done to develop geriatric medical services as well as the creation of a gerontology centre in Bishkek.  Campaigners will take part in flash mobs in Bishkek Historical Museum, organise diabetes and hypertension screenings and visit older patients who are blind or have diabetes. 

Slovenia: An awareness campaign will take place in Slovenia focusing on food safety. Older activists will meet the Minister of Health and Minister of Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. There are also plans to organise round table discussions with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and 300 older people who will be talking about healthy food and lifestyles.


Photos and materials can be found here: http://bit.ly/ADAHealth2015

Available for interview:
Toby Porter, Chief Executive, HelpAge International
Eduardo Klien, Regional Director, East Asia/Pacific, HelpAge International

HelpAge’s website for details of country campaigns by Age Demands Action on Health: http://www.helpage.org/get-involved/campaigns/age-demands-action-on-health/

HelpAge’s Global AgeWatch Index 2014 http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/

Regional Media Contact:
Mr Teerapong Laptwan, Network and Communications Manager
HelpAge International’s East Asia/Pacific office in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tel: +66 (0) 53 225 440 ext.13.  Mobile: + 66 (0) 66 81 672 7693

Global Media Contact:
Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager
HelpAge International’s office in London
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623    Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624

Beth Howgate, Media Relations Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 207 148 7606