Select Page

IFA Virtual Town Hall Chat Summary 25 September 2020


Key Resources

Upcoming Events

  • IFA Virtual Town Hall
    COVID-19 and Older People: Addressing Inequalities of Older LGBTQ People
    Friday 2 October 2020 at 7:00 am EDT (Toronto)
  • NGO Committee on Ageing – New York
    United Nations International Day of Older Persons Celebration: “Pandemics: How do they change how we feel about age and ageing”
    Thursday 1 October 2020 at 9:00 am EDT (New York)
  • University College London, NGO Partnership for Public Health and UNFPA
    “Changes in behaviours and the projected health benefits for members of Healthy Ageing Centres in Bosnia and Herzegovina”
    Thursday 1 October 2020 at 6:00 am EDT / 12:00 pm CEST
  • NGO Committee on Ageing – Geneva
    United Nations International Day of Older Persons Celebration: “Pandemics: do they change how we address age & ageing? What are the implications for the Decade of Healthy Ageing?”
    Live stream: Password: Meetus@99
  • North York Elder Abuse Network
    Online Celebration of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons
    Thursday 1 October 2020 at 11:00 am EDT (Toronto)


Speaker Biographies

Mr. Eduard Jongstra

Mr. Jongstra is a Regional Adviser for Population And Development with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region.  He is a demographer by training, graduating from Groningen University in The Netherlands, specializing in non-Western Demography: working with incomplete and unreliable population-based data.  He has more than 25 years of experience as a technical adviser on data collection and analysis, particularly in relation to censuses and surveys.  Mr. Jongstra joined United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2004 as technical adviser on Population and Development.  He has worked in the Arab region, South Asia, the Pacific, and has for the past six years been stationed at UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In his latest posting Eduard has become much involved in work related to ageing and older persons, in connection with data issues on the one hand, and policy formulation on the other hand.  Eastern Europe has some of the most rapidly ageing societies who are often not well prepared to handle these demographic changes.  He is member of the steering group of the Titchfield City Group on Ageing, member of UNFPA’s internal working group on Ageing and Low Fertility.  He is instrumental in the formulation of UNFPA’s recently launched Demographic Resilience programme which focuses on supporting countries in managing their current and future demographic challenges.

Ms. Marta Diavolova

Ms. Diavolova is a Regional Adviser on Strategic Partnerships at UNFPA Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  Under her portfolio, she coordinates the work with key partners in the region, namely parliamentarian network, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, UN agencies, and other development partners and regional intergovernmental bodies.  At UNFPA EECA Regional office, Marta coordinates the work related to 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ICPD Programme of Action follow up and review processes. 

Prior to joining the Regional office, Marta spent more than 20 years working in a country office with WHO and UNFPA as well as EU-PHARE programme to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights, addressing population dynamics, gender equality, young people’s development and protection.  Marta has graduated midwifery; and completed a master degree in public health.

Dr. Lela Bakradze

Dr. Bakradze has been appointed a UNFPA Head of Office in Georgia in January 2020.  She has worked for UNFPA Georgia for nearly 15 years leading its programming in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and population dynamics, since 2014 in a capacity of an Assistant Representative.  Before joining UNFPA she worked for UNIFEM, GRCS/IFRC and other international NGOs. 

In the beginning of her carrier Dr. Bakradze worked as a medical doctor in leading clinics of St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, and Tbilisi, Georgia.  She holds degree of a Medical Doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University and an MBA from the Caucasus School of Business (in partnership with Georgia State University, USA).

Mr. Eduard Mihalas

Mr. Mihalas is a Programme Analyst on Population and Development at UNFPA Moldova.  Eduard is leading UNFPA Moldova’s work in promoting rights-based and data-driven demographic policies and advises the Moldovan Government on required actions in managing a growing older population.

Eduard is currently involved in the UNFPA Moldova’s intergenerational solidarity initiative which aims to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by fostering social cohesion and building empathy between younger and older generations in the country.

Mr. Zeljko Blagojevic

Mr. Blagojevic has been working with the UNFPA since 2016 on population development issues and provision of technical support to government institutions on evidence-based policy development.  He led the process of development of policies on ageing in Bosnia and Herzegovina in cooperation with entity governments and statistical offices.  Both strategies take into consideration capacities of older persons for community development through voluntarism and intergenerational collaboration, as well as their needs in terms of active and healthy ageing aimed at prevention of mental health of older persons. 

Furthermore, Zeljko has been involved in development of a network of Healthy Ageing Centres (HACs) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Currently, the network has 15 HACs opened in eight municipalities across the country that serve several thousand older persons.  Initial steps were made to expand the network to other countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. 

Before UNFPA, Zeljko worked on economic and social development projects across Western Balkans for UNDP, World Vision International, United Methodist Committee on Relief, International Rescue Committee and Save the Children.  He holds a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in financial management.


National and local initiatives

  • A network of healthy ageing centres (HACs) has been expanded beyond Bosnia and Herzegovia to several other countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region. There is interest to grow the network across Europe and in other continents as well.
  • Are older persons providing feedback or offering modifications or enhancements to the programs and initiatives being offered?
  • COVID-19 has highlighted the difficulty of supporting potentially isolated older adults, particularly if they do not self-identify as isolated. Has any jurisdiction had success in establishing a comprehensive, ‘stay-in-touch’ program that allows for easy contact while respecting privacy?
  • In the United States there is a Village Movement to have older volunteers to reach out to peers in their neighborhoods to prevent or address isolation.


Demographic concerns

  • The age dependency ratio is something many countries are focusing on. Some countries are providing financial incentives to have more than one child, and the media reinforces the need to increase fertility rates to increase population size.
  • The closure of schools due to COVID-19 have impacted the informal caregiving sector. This includes older people who are providing informal care for young children, as well as adult children providing care to older parents.  Caregivers must also be supported to provide essential care for their family members. 


Takeaway messages

Zeljko Blagojevic:

Given that demographic structures are changing rapidly and that all developed countries have registered increases in the number of older persons, as well as taking into consideration how fragile older population might be at a time of pandemics such as COVID-19, it is important to promote active ageing from an early age (even starting at pre-school education).  Healthy lifestyles have no alternatives.

Lela Bakradze:

Although oriented to meeting emergency needs, UNFPA’s work is grounded on a “build back better” approach, working on improving the frameworks and standards of care and plans to continue this work.  Volunteerism and community mobilization are key components of this approach.

Eduard Mihalas:

Young people can be a resource for building digital skills of older persons.  They can play an important role in preventing social isolation of older persons and in building strong intergenerational dialogue that helps us all to overcome challenges that are occurring during the pandemic.

Marta Diavolova:

It seems the demographic shifts and COVID-19 pandemic are among the key challenges of the 21st century.  Multi-stakeholder responses are needed on how societies will adapt to the tremendous population changes and COVID-19 may be a wakeup call on how we restructure behavior to make the most of longer lives and embark on a decade of opportunities that last with us over the life course.

Share This