Int’l workshop seeks to promote active ageing, mental health in ASEAN hinh anh 1Medical checkups provided to the elderly in the central province of Ha Tinh. (Photo: VietnamPlus)

Hanoi (VNA) -
An international workshop was held on November 18 and 19 to provide a forum for domestic and foreign experts to share their experience and make recommendations on promoting active ageing and mental health in ASEAN member states.

The “International Workshop on Strengthening Stakeholders Cooperation in Promoting Active Ageing and Mental Health in ASEAN” was held by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

As part of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, the event aimed to share experience and strengthen cooperation among stakeholders in promoting active ageing and mental health for older persons in the ASEAN community. It has gathered more than 170 representatives from ASEAN member states and partners.

Population ageing is a global phenomenon. Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older persons in the population. In 2020, there are an estimated over 700 million persons aged 65 years or over worldwide, accounting for 9.1 percent. This number will be more than double by 2050, reaching over 1.5 billion persons, accounting for 15.5 percent of the world’s population.

In his opening remarks, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Health Truong Quoc Cuong said the 21st century is viewed as the century of population ageing. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has the third-largest population in the world, after only China and India. The elderly (those aged over 65) number more than 45 million people, accounting for 7 percent of the regional population. By 2050, this group of population is forecast to reach 132 million, or 16.7 percent of the bloc’s population.

Four ASEAN nations – Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia – are already considered ageing societies and expected to move to “super-aged” by 2050, Cuong said.

He went on to talk about the situation in Vietnam, saying the country entered the “ageing” period in 2011 and remains among the most rapidly-ageing countries in the world. The elderly now account for 7.7 percent of the national population, or 7.4 million people, with over 2 million aged 80 or above.

It will take Vietnam only 20 years to move from an “ageing” society, where the over-65s make up 14 percent of the total population, to an “aged” one, where the percentage is over 14 percent, while such a transition took much longer in developed countries, such as France (115 years), Switzerland (85 years), Australia (73 years), and the US (69 years), the deputy minister noted.

Ageing-induced demographic changes have had impacts on all socio-economic matters in each country and each society, he continued, so the workshop offers a good opportunity for ASEAN countries to seek ways to ramp up the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in enhancing care for the elderly and achieving an active ageing and healthy ASEAN Community as well as a cohesive and resilient ASEAN.

Int’l workshop seeks to promote active ageing, mental health in ASEAN hinh anh 2Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Vietnam, delivers a speech at the “International Workshop on Strengthening Stakeholders Cooperation in Promoting Active Ageing and Mental Health in ASEAN." (Photo: VietnamPlus)

"Population ageing is not the subject to be ignored in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda,” said Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Vietnam.

“Population ageing happens not because of mortality decline, or because people live longer, but largely because fertility declines. All countries in the world including Vietnam must be prepared for aging when couples start to have a smaller family. Vietnam must envision a new paradigm that aligns demographic ageing with economic and social growth and ensures social inclusion of the elderly,” she said.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies and highlights the vulnerabilities and specific needs of older persons. It is clear that the fatality rate for older persons is higher, and for those over 80, it is five times higher than the global average. Older persons must be a priority in the ASEAN Community’s efforts to overcome COVID-19 to ensure no one is left behind in humanitarian response as well as in development effort.

With the theme “Cohesive and responsive” ASEAN, the participants came up with recommendations on how to promote meaningful responses to population ageing – responses based on values of non-discrimination and equality that advance the vision of a vigorous, happy and healthy old age to a cohesive and responsive ASEAN community in promoting healthy active ageing./.