Older people are very often an invisible section of society. Many face abuse, neglect, exclusion and poverty. For example in some cultures 25% of the elderly have nutritional anaemia – the result of an inadequate diet. In addition, many as they get older develop some of the degenerative diseases of aging. And they may not have access to their rights and entitlements…

Most NGOs give little priority to challenging age discrimination or ensuring that older people receive their fair share of development resources. Currently the voices of older people are not sufficiently heard, with little direct participation in research, in programme planning and advocacy work, even when these activities are intended to benefit them. 

If you work with the elderly there are ways of involving them in needs assessments and project design and monitoring.

Gender Issues within the Elderly: In many cultures older people live with their children. Older men will continue with their roles of guides and decision-makers; older women usually carry out tasks around childcare and housework – and also provide guidance and expertise. In traditional, rural settings their value may be clearly appreciated. But with urbanisation they may come to be seen as a burden. 

The role of pensions: Some countries have started to improve the situation of the elderly by providing non-contributory or social pensions. In Bangladesh, Botswana and Nepal, social pensions have reduced the number of people living on less than a dollar a day. The money also helps the dependents of the elderly, improving nutrition, access to medicine and to education. It has helped to reduce gender inequality in income and in the quality of life between older women and men.

There is much poverty among older people but it is usually older women who have to pick up the pieces of the AIDS epidemic. They become elderly carers of the orphans and vulnerable children when both elderly & children need support.

Helpage International are the biggest organisation involved in work with the elderly in the South, offering many online publications in PDF format.