On September 7, the UN released their Women's Report titled 'Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot 2023' highlighting the role of older women in achieving their SDGs.
The report assesses the progress made toward achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were established by UN member states in 2015, with the overarching goal of building a more inclusive world by 2030.
What Does The Report Say?
The world is currently witnessing a significant demographic shift with a notable increase in the older population. From 1950 to 2023, the ratio of the older population has increased from 5.1 percent, approximately 128.2 million people, to 10 percent, i.e., 807.8 million individuals. A key factor contributing to this shift is the fact that women tend to outlive men by an average of 5.2 years, leading to a greater representation of older women.
In the year 2023, women constituted a substantial 55.7 percent of the population aged 65 and above. Unfortunately, older women often face unique challenges in their later years. They are more likely to live a significant portion of their lives in ill health or with a disability, particularly as they age.
Chronic conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression tend to impact older women at higher rates compared to older men. Despite them taking centre stage in achieving SDGs, the specific challenges, opportunities, and diversity of older women were not adequately addressed, often leading to their exclusion from discussions about women, gender, and older persons.
The discrimination and inequality faced by older women are often the result of disadvantages that accumulate over a lifetime. Older women are more likely to be widowed, less likely to remarry, and more likely to live alone, factors that can exacerbate economic insecurity in old age.
In 2023, globally, women aged 55 to 59 were more likely to live in extreme poverty than men, with 8 percent of women and 6.9 percent of men facing this issue. Moreover, many women reach old age with few assets and savings, often lacking adequate pensions or social protection benefits. In fact, only 56 out of 116 countries with available data offer women universal access to pensions. In 47 countries, women's pension coverage falls short of universal access and lags behind men's.
Additionally, older women may experience emotional, economic, and physical abuse, often perpetrated by family members, and social isolation can further compound these challenges. Studies indicate alarming rates of intimate partner violence among older women, ranging from 16.5 to 54.5 percent globally.
It is imperative to develop comprehensive policies to support older women. UN report suggests that these policies should encompass income generation, caregiving, education, social protection, health care, housing, and transportation. Furthermore, they should promote the reconciliation of employment and caregiving responsibilities across the lifespan, recognizing the central role that older women play in providing care to younger generations, spouses, older relatives, and relatives with disabilities.
Addressing these multifaceted challenges requires a comprehensive approach that includes increased social support, and the elimination of ageism and stereotypes about older individuals. It is essential that the unique needs and experiences of older women are recognised and that they receive the necessary support and resources to live healthy, dignified lives in their later years.
Suggested Reading: UN's 'The Gender Snapshot 2023' Says World Is Failing Women