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World Health Day 2015: Age Demands Action campaigners call for age-friendly health services

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By Sophie Amos

Today on World Health Day, Age Demands Action campaigners in over 35 countries are calling for access to age-friendly health services for older people.

“It is unacceptable that older people around the world often miss out on their right to health because of physical and financial barriers, discrimination, lack of appropriate services and being unaware of their entitlements,” said Toby Porter, HelpAge’s Chief Executive.

“2015 is an important year for development. The Sustainable Development Goals will be set, including on health, for the next 15 years. By 2050, there will be two billion people over 60 compared with 868 million now. We need to ensure that older people are included and no one is left behind,” said Porter.

Kenya: No access to hospitals

Older people experience discrimination in many ways. Kahindi, 84, from Kenya became ill in 2007. He is still sick but can’t afford to return to the hospital for treatment.

He said: “I went to the nearest hospital but the doctor was not around and they advised me to go back later. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money so I’ve never gone back. I still don’t know the cause or name of my illness.

“No one would want to be in this state. All I need is help to go to hospital and get treated.”

Moldova: Medicine too expensive

“The medicine I need is very costly. I often can’t get it because I have so little money,” said Dontu, 50, who is disabled and from Moldova.

“The family doctor is 10km away. I need to pay to be taken but I don’t have the money. It would be good if doctors would come to the village and provide free consultations to older people,” he added.

Gaza: Age Demands Action impact

Consistent campaigning by Age Demands Action activists has resulted in improved health services at Sameera’s health centre in Gaza.

“When I went to the health clinic, I used to wait a long time and would sometimes leave without being treated,” said Sameera, 62.

“After several meetings with the head of the clinic, we started to see changes for older people. Priority is now given to older men and women and when I hand in my treatment card, I’m treated without delay.”

Philippines: Services make huge difference

Ernesto, 61, is from the Philippines and works part-time as a barangay guard. He underwent an operation last year on his lungs.

“I received this Senior Citizen ID card from HelpAge and the Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE). When I was hospitalised and received a large bill, I used the card to get a discount. I know this small card is worth a lot. It has been my passport to information and benefits, so I carry it all the time.”

Action around the world

This is a glimpse of what campaigners are doing today on World Health Day:

  • Bangladesh: Older activists are asking the government to implement a newly approved policy on access to healthcare for older people. They are meeting the Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and are organising street plays, rallies and health camps.

  • Mozambique: Campaigners are demanding that public hospitals provide free consultations, medication and access to older people, as stipulated in a law passed last year. There will be a community health fair as well as radio and TV debates addressing the issues older people face.

  • Kyrgyzstan: Older activists are calling for better geriatric medical services and a gerontology centre in the capital, Bishkek. Campaigners are taking part in flash mobs at Bishkek Historical Museum and are organising diabetes and hypertension screenings.

  • Slovenia: Older activists are meeting the Minister of Health and Minister of Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to discuss healthy food and lifestyles.

  • Grenada: The focus of this year’s campaign is affordable healthcare for vulnerable older people. Street plays, a TV programme and meetings between older people and Ministers are taking place to highlight this issue.