Although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older people face significant risk of developing severe symptoms if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.
In many countries, older people are facing more and more threats and challenges than the challenges they had already been facing since the pandemic. According to statistics, the pandemic has taken its greatest toll among older adults in terms of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
During the past three decades, HelpAge Sri Lanka has been at the forefront of creating a better world for Sri Lankan elders by implementing many programmes and projects island-wide
In Sri Lanka too, the majority of deaths from the coronavirus was people over the age of 50. As per the statistics by government health officials, more than 85% COVID-19 deaths in Sri Lanka have occured among people who were 50 or older. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has the fastest growing ageing population in South Asia and it is predicted that by 2030, one in five Sri Lankans will be over the age of 60, with the majority being women.
With the intention of strengthening the meaningful inclusion of older persons especially during emergency preparedness efforts, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka recently joined hands with HelpAge Sri Lanka.
This partnership will focus on building capacities of Senior Citizen Committees (SCC) in selected areas to provide early warning and respond to the needs of older persons in emergencies, developing disaster preparedness plans for selected Divisional Secretariat Divisions including addressing the needs of older persons and people with disabilities and building capacities of relevant government organizations and other stakeholders on age-responsive action in planning and responding to emergencies.
Speaking on this matter, UNFPA Representative Ritsu Nacken said, “With a firm commitment to leaving no one behind, UNFPA is pleased to partner with HelpAge to strengthen efforts to ensure the needs and voices of older persons while other vulnerable populations are included throughout their recovery efforts.”
Sri Lanka has the fastest growing ageing population in South Asia and it is predicted that by 2030, one in five Sri Lankans will be over the age of 60, with the majority being women
“During the past three decades, HelpAge Sri Lanka has been at the forefront of creating a better world for Sri Lankan elders by implementing many programmes and projects island-wide. HelpAge is privileged to strengthen its hands by partnering with the UNFPA to embark its journey on a stronger platform to carry forward its mission in creating a safer environment for senior citizens of Sri Lanka against natural disasters” said Deshabandu Tilak de Zoysa, Chairman of HelpAge Sri Lanka.
According to the National Charter for Senior Citizens, Sri Lanka lacks giving adequate attention to senior citizens. This is a matter of grave concern. As possible reasons, the document stated that the decline of traditional care, which derived from religion and culture in Sri Lanka for senior citizens, has diminished.
This is due to challenging economic situations, competitive working cultures, changing values and expectations of women; who were originally supposed to look after elders in the respective families are now seeking employment. It has underscored middle aged women migrating to the Middle East in search of employment as one of the causes which has severely affected the caring system.
UNFPA emphasizes that efforts to protect older persons should not overlook the diversity of older persons, their resilience and positivity, and the multiple roles they play in society, including as producers, caregivers, volunteers and leaders.