Note to Correspondents

Note No 159
27 September 2001

The Secretary-General


1 October 2001

NEW YORK, 26 September (UN Headquarters) -- Humankind is ageing. The average life expectancy at birth has increased from 46 to 66 since 1950. By mid-century, the ratio of older people in society will double from 1 in 10 persons to 1 in 5. Demographic ageing, long evident in developed countries, is now occurring at a swift pace in developing countries as well.

Such a global transformation affects individuals, households, communities, and virtually all areas of government and society. Policy measures, and general attitudes on ageing, must evolve, too. Ageing issues need to be better integrated into the larger context of development. Older people must be able to participate fully in the decisions affecting their lives. And all of us must recognize how trends such as globalization, urbanization and migration, as well as health crises such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, affect the place of older persons in society.

The Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held next April in Madrid, offers an opportunity to raise international awareness of these goals, to promote greater intergenerational solidarity, and to build on the first World Assembly in Vienna 20 years ago. I urge all partners to support this process, and more broadly to do everything in their power so that all men and women can age with security and dignity. The seeds of healthy ageing are planted early in life; that is a challenge we must take up without delay.

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