Out of the limelight: older people left in the shadows of the data revolution

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Since the censuses of ancient times, policy makers have relied on data. In what the UN is terming a data revolution, technological advancement now means that we have more information than ever at our fingertips. Bigger datasets covering more people and more topics have the potential to highlight the experiences of previously marginalised groups. Indeed, the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons has proposed that data be disaggregated ‘by gender, geography, income, disability and other categories to ensure that no-one is left behind’.

Unfortunately, this leaves one key group out of the limelight: older people. Older people represent one of the world’s fastest growing demographics, with the proportion of the world’s population over the age of 60 expected to double in the first half of this century[1]. They also represent one of the poorest demographics. Age International report that 100 million older people are currently living on less than 60p per day, and that across the world 80% of older people have to do poorly paid, unsafe or irregular work to survive. Even in the UK, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, Age UK show that 1.6m older people live on or below the poverty line, and 900,000 older people live in severe poverty.

Any policies targeted at helping older people require an evidence base. If data illustrating the realities of life for older people is not easily accessible, and is not presented to policy makers, very little will change.

It is to this end that the ILC-UK publishes its annual UK factpack, a compendium of the vital statistics on ageing in the UK. Next week we are launching our first EU factpack, which aggregates data from across Europe to emphasise regional patterns, and to facilitate international comparisons. Through these factpacks we aim to provide policy makers with the hard evidence which is crucial for guiding their response to the challenges faced by older people, both in the UK and around the world.

Helen Creighton

[1] Data from the WHO shows that between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22%.


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