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Older aged and all alone. What is the impact of being childless in the time of COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has impressed upon the world the dreadful impact of isolation on mental health and overall health and wellbeing on populations of all ages, and especially older people. While many have taken this as an opportunity to better support one another within their families, some older women are facing a different reality with staggering unmet care needs, discrimination and without children who may have provided support. A recent article in The Guardian explores an uncommon perspective: What does it mean to be childless in later life? Given that in some societies there is a reliance on adult children to provide care for their parents, support programs and services may not be available to meet the care needs of older people . Women also experience pervasive criticism for the divergence from societal expectations of child bearing whereas data on men without children is not collected.“It’s somehow their own fault if there is no one to look after them.” - Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women Is there a care crisis now and in the future that we are not seeing? A report from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics suggests an increasing need for formal caregiving services, in light of a decreasing kinship (informal) caregiving: Forty-one percent of those aged 80 years and over are not receiving help and support needed. By 2045 there will be a threefold increase in the number of women who reach the age of 80 and do not have children. Older adults who do not have children are 25% more likely to go into residential care than those with children. While these statistics are revealing, a broader conversation must be had to bring attention the care needs of older women who have had children and are no longer alive, or children who do not live in close proximity or children who choose not to be involved in their parent’s care. Many residential facilities are undervalued, underfunded and struggling to cope with the current demand let alone the future. Civil society in many countries is calling for a substantial overhaul to meet the rising demand in coming years. The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) believes that governments must develop integrated systems that support long-term care provision based on need, and which reflect the inherent diversity of ageing populations. The upcoming 15th Global Conference on Ageing will explore new and innovative models of long-term care systems needed to respond to changing demographics and societal norms. If you are a journalist covering this topic – the let the experts help with your stories. - Dr. Sytse Zuidema, Professor of Elderly Care Medicine and Dementia in the Netherlands - Prof. Ariela Lowenstein, Head of the Social Gerontology Center for Research in Israel These experts are available to speak with media about the need to improve formal and informal caregiving frameworks – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today.

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Rates of undiagnosed hearing and vision loss are striking. Let IFA's newest expert explain the impact this is having on older adults.

Unaddressed hearing and vision loss among older adults is a major health concern yet does not receive the attention it deserves. Striking findings from new research based on older adults in England found that one third of people aged 50 and older with hearing loss are not diagnosed. Principle investigator, Dr. Dalia Tsimpida says, "It is crucial that those with hearing loss are detected in a timely way, referred to ear specialists and given access to hearing aids. The early identification of hearing difficulties in primary care may be the key to tackling this major public health issue." Low rates of diagnosis are also found among older adults with vision loss, with two in ten older people in the United Kingdom experiencing vision loss, yet a third of this same group had not received an eye test in the last 12 months (Lliffe et al., 2013). These findings are critical considering the impact of sensory decline on various modes of functional ability among older adults – including cognition. IFA’s newest expert Dr. Heather Whitson explains: "If you’re ageing without good vision, not only are you giving your brain less stimulation, you might be altering your brain at a structural level." Dr. Heather E. Whitson, MD, MHS, is an internist, geriatrician and clinical investigator. Dr. Whitson is the Director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development (Duke Aging Center), where her research seeks to improve health and resilience for older adults with multiple chronic conditions. She has particular interest and expertise related to the interface between age-related changes in sensory and cognitive health. Dr. Whitson is available to speak with media, and recently spoke with Reuters and was featured in a variety of articles regarding this critical topic, including: Look after your eyes to protect your brain, new study claims Maintaining healthy vision may help keep brain in shape, too Clinical Research Day highlights the role of new technologies in building partnerships Simply click on her expert icon to arrange an interview today.

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Equity under pressure: Does the burden of COVID-19 threaten progress made?

By Anna Sangster - Program Manager, International Federation on AgeingThe COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis touching the lives of everyone around the world. In times such as these people often take solace in collective experience, they take comfort in the notion that everyone, as the expression goes, is in the same boat… but is this really true? In a recent article entitled “Help for the money anxieties of older LGBT Adults” the impact and disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on the lives and particularly the financial security of LGBT Americans is illustrated. John C. Williams, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said in June that “the unemployment rate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was nearly double the national average during the pandemic.” Understanding what drives this stark difference requires a closer inspection of the everyday lived experience of LGBT individuals. LGBT folks especially older LGBT, often experience higher rates of: Discrimination Higher instances of health conditions Increased social isolation when compared to non-LGBT people. This combined with the fact that LGBT individuals rely more heavily on the informal economy and industries that have been heavily affected by COVID-19 restrictions such as the service and entertainment industries, has had devastating impacts within this community. The vulnerability of older LGBT adults during the pandemic, is but one salient example that illustrates the urgent need to formally acknowledge and incorporate an equity lens into pandemic responses. The importance of the role of equity cannot be overstated, UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a recent virtual town hall that “the global pandemic has already reversed decades of limited and fragile progress on gender equality and women’s rights” adding that “Without a concerned response, we risk losing a generation or more of gains.” As is the case with the LGBT community, women globally have been disproportionally impacted with respect to not only labour force participation but also increased domestic violence. Compounded with the reality that there are fewer resources and support services available, the mental and physical health implications are dire. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to a collective experience but in that collective experience there is a collective responsibility. While individuals around the world have been weathering the same storm, our protections against the storm have been vastly different. Recognizing these differences and working actively to mitigate the impacts within our marginalized communities is a crucial step to not only protecting the rights and needs of all individuals, but in preserving hard earned progress and shaping a future where addressing inequity is a priority.If you are a journalist looking to report on the impact of COVID-19 on older LGBT individuals and older women – then let our experts help.• Michael Adams is currently the Chief Executive Officer of SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders), the oldest and largest organization in the United States dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. In partnership with SAGE affiliates countrywide, SAGE serves countless LGBT older people nationally via technical assistance, trainings and services as well as advocacy at every level of government. • Dr Pat Armstrong is a Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology at York University in Toronto. She held a CHSRF/CIHR Chair in Health Services and Nursing Research and has published on a wide variety of issues related to long-term care, health care policy, and women’s health.Both experts are available to speak with media about this important topic – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today!

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Working Together to Defeat Invasive Meningococcal Disease

April 24 is World Meningitis Day, and on this day, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) together with the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and Immunize Canada want to remind you that meningococcal disease is a health risk you should not take.

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The IFA has a long established and wide-ranging network of member organizations around the world. The network extends to over 75 countries covering every region. Together these organizations represent over 80 million older people.

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