Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meeting with Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, Assistant President of China National Committee on Ageing (Former Director of International Department at CNCA)

I went back to China in August and thanks to Global Action on Aging’s help, I had the chance to meet with Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, the Director of International Department at China National Committee on Ageing. Mr. Xiao is a long time friend of Global Action on Aging. The relationship dates back to 2002 when he visited GAA in New York and GAA interns interviewed him about his work.

I went to his office prepared with several questions, most of them related to the China ’s newly launched Social Pension System. The meeting was very cordial. We talked about a number of topics. The Chinese Government had several reasons to establish a social pension system (non-contributory pension) and to expand pension coverage to rural areas in China , according to Mr. Xiao. One important reason is that China is developing rapidly, with an average growth rate of 8%. However, during its many years of economic growth, China has witnessed serious social problems, including ever-increasing social inequality and environmental problems. In order to enhance its development in a sustainable manner, the Chinese Central and Local Governments intend to allocate much more resources to programs such as Social Health Insurance and a Social Pension System.

As China ages rapidly, the aging population has increased substantially. The number of 60 years and older was about 760 million during the Eighties. Now the number has reached 1,500 million, twice as many as it was 30 years ago. It is estimated that the older population in China will hit 4,300 million in 2050, with an average increasing rate of 6 million per year. For a thousand years, parents expected, as a cultural tradition, that their children would provide care for them in old age. Older Chinese depended on their offspring for a very long time. However, this tradition is facing challenges. As more and more young adults moving from rural areas to big cities, their old parents are left at home in rural areas without a stable income to support them. The so-called “empty-nester” has come to exemplify a growing social problem. How will older people in China get care in their old age? The demand for establishing more social caregiving organizations for elders is increasing. At the same time, some experts suggest that enhancing and supporting traditional family-based care is more feasible under the current circumstances. As indicated by Mr. Xiao Cai Wei, the Chinese Government has already set up a strategy to solve this problem: The Chinese elder caregiving system should be based on the family and supported by community and social caring organizations. The government will evaluate some relevant policies and regulations to refine the system.

During the meeting, we also talked about future cooperation possibilities with Global Action on Aging. China has always been an active advocate for elder rights and would like to learn from other countries about their experiences in protecting older people, including policies that proved to be feasible and effective. As the world’s nation with the largest population of older people, China , and the China National Committee on Ageing, will have to come up with creative strategies that work well in China . Mr. Xiao appreciated Global Action on Aging’s perseverance and dedication to the well being of older persons all over the world. He sent his best wishes to Susanne, Magali, and all the diligent GAA interns. I am truly grateful to Mr. Xiao for giving me this interview and I thank Susanne for offering me this great opportunity.

By Ye Wang, for Global Action on Aging

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reviving Self-Help in the Bronx, NY, USA

Neighborhood Self Help by Older Persons Project (SHOPP) helps older adults to help themselves. Founded in 1980, and based in the gritty Hunt’s Point section of the Bronx, SHOPP’s ethos revolves around self-help and mutual assistance.

Relying on informal support systems, SHOPP’s efforts lighten the numerous burdens that older people face. Their social service is specifically targeted to those community groups that compose the rich diversity of the Bronx. Programs include transportation to health and wellness services, among many others.

SHOPP’s Senior Network Groupwork Program serves senior groups in partner sites such as senior housing buildings, churches, and community centers. Latino seniors can find Spanish-speaking social opportunities at the “Casa Boricua Senior Center.” The bilingual “Proyecto Salud/Healthy Living” Project offers activities that focus on wellness and health, while providing counseling and support for seniors who suffer from abuse or are victims of crime.

To get involved and volunteer at SHOPP, visit their website:

Or contact their office directly:
953 Southern Boulevard Suite 203
Bronx, NY 10459-3428
Evelyn Laureano, Executive Director
(718) 542-0006
Jasmine Ellis-Carless, Assistant Director
(718) 542-0006

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Message on the International Day of Older Persons, By Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

“Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Older Persons: Towards a Society for All Ages”

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Older Persons.

Over the past decade, we intensified our efforts to build a “society for all ages” and to promote international commitment to the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. The Principles are founded on the need to build an inclusive society that emphasizes participation, self-fulfillment, independence, care and dignity for all. To transform them into deeds, we have campaigned for policies that will enable older persons to live in an environment that enhances their capabilities, fosters their independence, and provides them with adequate support and care as they age.

The motto “towards a society for all ages” was adopted in 1999 and reaffirmed at the Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid in 2002. It emphasizes the need to treat older persons as both agents and beneficiaries of development. These emphases – and the United Nations Principles – take on even greater importance as the world struggles to confront global food, energy, climate, financial and economic crises.

The international community is also devoting increasing attention to the human rights of older persons. We must put an end to age discrimination, abuse, neglect and violence against older persons. I urge states to put the necessary legal protections in place, and I urge all partners to help countries develop the capacity and institutions to achieve this objective.

On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the vital work of upholding the UN Principles for Older Persons and achieving a society for all ages.