The in-person and virtual 15th Global Conference “Rights Matter” represents a critical point of connection for all those fighting for the rights of older people in a time when their value may have been in question against the backdrop of the brutal nature and consequences of the global pandemic.

Four action areas of The Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030: ageism, age-friendly cities and communities, primary health care, and long-term care alongside older people and pandemics constitute the structural pillars of the IFA Global Conference which is expected to attract more than a thousand delegates around the world across governments, NGOs, industry, academia and older people.

Ageism – stereotyping (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards people on the basis of their age – impacts everyone no matter their age.  Ageism has particularly deleterious effects on the health and well-being of older people.  Understanding, measuring and reducing ageism requires new metrics, effective interventions and mechanisms to replicate and scale-up good practice to prevent the manifestation of ageism across generations (interpersonal); in systems through laws and policies (institutional); and through internalization (self-directed).

Older people in their communities pay the highest price as they fight not only ageism, embedded in the complexities of gender, literacy and ethnicity, but also face social exclusion, loneliness and poor health outcomes.  Efforts to combat ageism, including policy changes and shifts to perceptions and attitudes, are needed to empower and facilitate inclusion of people of all ages in economic and social opportunities.

Abstracts on Ageism can be submitted under the following subthemes:

Institutional ageism[1]: health, workplace, media, legal and politics

Reducing ageism: policy and law, campaigns, educational and intergenerational activities

Ageism and equity: gender, ethnicity, literacy, food and income security

Communities that foster the abilities of citizens throughout their entire life are better places to grow, live, work, play and age.  Our environments (e.g. physical, social and economic) underpinning the determinants of healthy ageing and powerful influences on the experience and opportunities that ageing offers.

An age-friendly environment promotes health and the development and maintenance of physical and mental capacity throughout the life course while enabling people, even when they have diminished capacity, to continue to do the things they value.  For more than a decade, age-friendly cities and communities have flourished with the leadership of all levels of government but most importantly older people ‘in community’ driving change.

“Age-friendly” is not a stand-alone concept but rather a dynamic platform for social participation and economic growth.  This can be achieved through improving access to lifelong learning, removing barriers to retaining and hiring older workers while limiting job loss and poverty, providing adequate pensions and social assistance in financially sustainable ways and reducing inequality in care by better support for family and kin caregivers.

Abstracts on Age-Friendly Cities and Communities can be submitted under the following subthemes:

Settings and implications: urban and rural, high and low income, local, subnational and national

Models, planning and impact: evidence-based action, tools, scaling up and replicating

Barriers and enablers: technology, housing, urban / town planning

Older people have the right to the best possible health.  The cornerstone of universal health coverage and the main entry point for older people into the health system is primary health care.  Accessible, affordable, equitable, and safe community-based care requires a competent trained workforce that is properly remunerated, framed by appropriate legislation and regulation, and underpinned with sustainable funding.

Investment is required to ensure equity, social justice and social protection, as well as the elimination of widespread ageism which limits the access of older people to suitable health and social services.

Strong systems are flexible systems through improved workforce capacity, technology to exchange information among service providers, standard data requirement on intrinsic capacity and functional ability; and digital technologies to support self-management.

The WHO Integrated Care of Older People (ICOPE) is an example of person-centred approach that supports healthy ageing by addressing priority conditions associated with declines across domains of intrinsic capacity.

Abstracts on Primary health care can be submitted under the following subthemes:

Improving capacities: cognition, mobility, vision, hearing, mental health and oral health

Caregiver issues and good practices: isolation, financial burden and stress

Integrated care of older people: models, good practice, measurement

Older people, even with significant loss of functional ability, have the right to basic human rights, fundamental freedoms, and to live with dignity.  Long-term care (LTC)[2] is a means to ensure that older people, who have reached a point that they can no longer care for themselves, can still experience healthy ageing.

The LTC system spans family members, friends, volunteers, the workforce of paid and unpaid caregivers, care coordination, community-based services, and institutional care (in some countries referred to as residential facilities or nursing homes).  Some LTC systems also include services that support caregivers and ensure the quality of the care through the provision of respite care, information, education, accreditation, financing, and training.

Work is needed on new models of LTC as population ageing, migration and urbanization converge.  In many communities, the proportion of younger people available to provide care continues to decrease and many older people are left without families – this model is not sustainable, especially in a climate of humanitarian emergencies.

Reablement and restorative care, good nutrition, physical activity and social engagement are critical elements to improve the capacity of an individual to the point that the need for LTC is diminished.

Abstracts on Long-term care can be submitted under the following subthemes:

Quality and safety: innovative models, use of technology, workforce and infrastructure

Regulations and funding: care standards, building codes and abuse and neglect

Marginalised groups: people with disabilities, indigenous, homeless, people living with dementia

In 2013, a global health catastrophe was narrowly averted in a world unprepared for an outbreak of Ebola[3].  Some ten years earlier, 8,000 cases of SARS were reported in 26 countries but again the impact was not global.  In 2019, the WHO stated that “another influenza pandemic was inevitable[4].”

Today the world’s attention has turned to public health.  It is vital to not only reflect on lessons learned in this pandemic but the value of immunisation throughout the lifespan and ensure that no one is left behind.   This will mean a reorientation of health systems toward prevention, protection and health promotion[5].  Parity in vaccination targets throughout life is a key pillar and a central component of universal health coverage likely to reduce health inequalities, relieve pressure on secondary health services and leave systems them more able to respond to crises.

Living with COVID-19 means that the protection of older adults and those with underlying chronic conditions against vaccine preventable diseases is more important than ever.  Maximizing uptake of existing vaccines for infectious diseases such influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, pertussis, meningococcal as well as tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis reduces the annual burden of disease (increased mortality, morbidity and healthcare costs) particularly in at-risk populations.

Governments must be urged to invest in the lives of all their citizens because every life counts.

Abstracts on Older people and pandemics can be submitted under the following subthemes:

Adult vaccination: prevention, access and equity

COVID-19: Lessons learned and actions taken

Vaccination innovations: vaccines, delivery, messaging

Submit an Abstract

[1] Institutional ageism. (1982). In Nuessel, F.H. Jr. The language of ageism. Gerontologist, 22:273-6
[2] Long-term care. (2015). In World report on ageing and health. Geneva: World Health Organization
[3] Wilson, R. (2018). Epidemic: Ebola and the global scramble to prevent the next killer outbreak. Brookings Institution Press
[4] World Health Organization. (2019). 8 things to know about a pandemic.
[5] World Federation of Public Health Associations (2016) A Global Charter for the Public’s Health