- In 2022, we expanded our diversity and inclusion working group by welcoming new members from across all regions.
- Our January 2023 organisational pulse check was focused specifically on diversity and inclusion, and the results were very positive, with staff reporting high levels of belonging within their team.
- We also developed and rolled out a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Policy g to guide our future direction as an organisation that truly reflects the diversity of the people we represent.
We are here to make sure every older person, everywhere, can lead a healthy, dignified and secure life. This report highlights our actions and progress from April 2022 to March 2023.
A letter from the Chair and CEO
If the year from 2022 to 2023 stood out for anything, it was the number of crises that erupted across the world. Some of these were the 28 humanitarian crises that we responded to.
A letter from the Chair and CEO
If the year from 2022 to 2023 stood out for anything, it was the number of crises that erupted across the world.
Some of these were the 28 humanitarian crises that we responded to – including the war in Ukraine, the floods in Pakistan, the Türkiye Syria earthquake and the drought in the Horn of Africa. We provided older people with life-saving support and worked to make them visible to other responders, who often put older people at the back of the queue.
But the challenges went much deeper. The cost-of-living increases around the world put essentials like adequate food and healthcare out of reach of many older people. In such conditions, systemic ageism and unquestioned discrimination mean that governments and other support systems close their doors to older people, which mean that universal healthcare and food security for older people remain goals we must struggle for.
Our data showed that gendered discrimination occurs at all levels of society, resulting in older women experiencing hunger or being deprioritised for healthcare.
Around the world, we have responded energetically to the challenges facing older people by working in partnership with the members of the HelpAge global network and our wider allies, including our donors. Thanks to this pool of support, confidence, and expertise, we have been able to respond to new shocks, while maintaining our long-term commitment to healthy ageing and income security for older people, as well as championing activism for older people’s rights.
With so many climate-related crises, we also ramped up our engagement with climate change, focusing on its implications for older people through the development of a roadmap which lays out the direction our work needs to take.
And in the last year, we learned more about the power of community approaches to health, about how to integrate digital tools in healthcare for older people, and about addressing the systemic ageism in health services that keeps doors closed to older people. We developed our long-standing Scaling-up Non-Communicable Diseases Interventions in South-East Asia (SUNI-SEA) project in south-east Asia, and the Better Health of Older People in Africa project. We are also working with partners to advocate to make sure that health services are available, and that health providers and policy makers understand what people need as they age.
Looking ahead, we are committed to one major shift in our work: advancing our journey towards localisation. This is something that must be addressed by the entire development and humanitarian sector, shifting power from international to local organisations that know the context where they operate. We are moving ahead with a full commitment to ensuring our programmes are managed by local and national partners.
As Chair and CEO of HelpAge International we are very proud of the way our staff, network members and partners have worked in the last year. We have been inspired by the way so many people have stepped up to deliver the best possible support to older people, rising to a challenging year and doing their part to make this a better world for older people.
This will be the last time that the two of us collaborate on our end of year report, as there will be a change of CEO in the coming year. After nine years at HelpAge, I, Justin, am stepping aside and passing the privilege of making this a better world to grow old in onto my successor, Cherian Mathews. Cherian has been deputy CEO at HelpAge since the beginning of 2022 and is well positioned to build on our strategic commitments, while bringing fresh impetus. We know that under his leadership, HelpAge will continue to work tirelessly to champion the rights, well-being and dignity of older people around the world.
Our year in numbers
In 2022/23 we focused on seven main thematic areas, to ensure we protected the wellbeing, dignity and rights of the older people we work with.
Inclusive humanitarian action
The proportion of people aged 50 and over in countries where conflict and disasters are more likely to occur is expected to more than double from 220 million in 2020 to 586 million by 2050. Older people are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises, and yet they are often invisible in the response, sidelined and overlooked in favour of more visible groups. We are determined to work towards an inclusive and fair humanitarian support system, one that consults, includes and centres older people and takes accounts of their specific needs.
Snapshot of inclusive humanitarian action
659kolder people reached with humanitarian assistance
28emergencies responded to across 23 countries
Find out more
Across the world
East Africa drought
Four consecutive failed rainy seasons across East Africa pushed people to the brink of starvation, with failed crops and herds of livestock wiped out. Working through HelpAge country offices in Ethiopia and Kenya, we supported partners Action for Development and Rift Valley Children and Women Development Organization in Ethiopia, as well as Pastoralist Integrated Support Program in Kenya and Humanitarian Development Consortium in South Sudan to carry out a rapid needs assessment, collecting data through stories and videos on the effect of the drought on older people, their households and livelihoods. Partners also engaged the media to raise the alarm on the critical danger the drought posed to pastoralism in the Horn of Africa.
In addition, in Uganda, almost 10,000 older people were supported with cash grants, and 900 older people’s households received 10kgs of beans,
10kgs of flour and 1kg of salt. In Somalia, over 1,300 older people and their dependants received counselling services through partner organisation Horn International Relief and Development Organization, with ongoing referral if necessary.
To help with recovery, monies from our Global Emergency Fund were used in Ethiopia to provide a water system to the homes of more than 5,000 older people, and hay seeds were provided to pastoralists on the eventual return of the first rains, while in South Sudan we worked with the Humanitarian Development Consortium to provide vegetable seeds and goats to 500 older people’s households.
Cyclone Freddy caused widespread flooding, mudslides and landslides across parts of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in March 2023. HelpAge in Mozambique with partner Associacao de Proteção do Idoso de Tete distributed food items, seeds, hygiene kits and cholera prevention kits to 500 households headed by older people, and used print and broadcast media to provide safety and response messages to almost 6,000 people affected by the floods.
In Malawi, we supported network member Malawi Network of Older Persons’ Organisations to provide food packages and water, sanitation and hygiene services to 1,000 older people and their families, while in Zimbabwe National Age Network provided 2,741 older people with cash transfers, and 436 households received sanitation kits, including water purification tablets.
Emergency response across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)
Over the past three years, the reach of our humanitarian work in LAC has grown considerably, and now covers Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti and Venezuela. In 2022, we responded to emergencies alongside our partners and network members in the region (Convite and Kapé Kapé in Venezuela, and SEPAS Riohacha, Vicariato de Puerto Carreño and CADENA in Colombia). People affected by disasters, such as floods in Venezuela, and hurricanes and conflict in Colombia, received lifesaving support, including water and sanitation items, food kits and mental health support. A total of 3,027 older people were reached with these support packages.
Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake in August 2022, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale and damaging or destroying more than 137,000 homes in the southwest of the country. In response in partnership with Foundation Nouvelle Grand’Anse, we supported 1,647 older people with hygiene kits, staple food as such rice, beans and corn, as well as food vouchers and a one-time cash transfer of US$60.
Global Emergency Fund
The Global Emergency Fund (GEF) enables HelpAge and its network members worldwide to respond to crises impacting older people, their families, resources, and capital, delivering timely and effective emergency actions in response to natural disasters.
In 2022/23, the GEF helped us respond to:
19 emergencies (9 floods, 1 cyclone, 2 cholera outbreaks, 7 droughts)
in 14 countries (10 in Africa, 3 in Asia, 4 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 in Europe/Middle East)
implemented through 9 partners / network members and 6 HelpAge country offices
11cash transfer projects helped people meet their basic needs
10projects provided water, sanitation and hygiene support
2projects were health-related activities such as cholera screening and treatment
9projects provided nutritious food
1project provided psychosocial services
112kpeople reached in total
This essential fund is generously supported by Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and Age International, enabling us to provide swift assistance and support during times of crisis.
Countries in focus
Working through local partners Rehabilitation and Development Organization and Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development, we supported 61,500 older people and people with disabilities living in refugee camps and host communities in Benishangul Gumuz region. We also worked with these partners to support South Sudanese refugees escaping the civil war, conflict and political instability, and host communities in Kule, Jewie, Nguenyyiel and Tierkidi refugee camps in Gambela, supporting more than 51,000 older people by providing access to food, healthcare, rehabilitation and livelihood services.
From June to October 2022, Pakistan faced major flooding across almost two-thirds of the country. More than 33 million people were affected, with over two million houses damaged and one million livestock killed. HelpAge in Pakistan responded to the floods in the seven most-affected districts, reaching 125,556 people alongside four partner organisations (Health and Nutrition Development Society, Initiative for Development and Education Axis, Rural Education and Economic Development Society, and the Community Development Foundation), distributing cash transfers, food and non-food items, temporary shelter, hygiene kits, dignity kits, psychosocial support and assistive technology. We also arranged training for partners on the international Humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities and the Core Humanitarian Standard to ensure quality and accountability in our humanitarian response.
Tanzania is currently hosting more than 209,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, living predominantly in Nduta and Nyarugusu refugee camps located in the north-west of the country. Within these camps, almost 95,000 people – approximately 45 per cent of the refugee population – are aged 60 or above. As part of our humanitarian programme, 170,000 people received support, including assistive devices provided to almost 3,000 older people with disabilities, and livelihood initiatives that reached 2,390 people with specific needs.
Training sessions were carried out in refugee camps and host communities on disaster preparedness, and early warning and response systems. Seventy-five intergenerational groups were established to provide a stronger community response, made up of people with disabilities, children, adolescents and older people. The groups help build relationships between different age groups and share learning between them, while ensuring positive child development, improving the well-being of older people and other groups, and developing positive attitudes toward older people and people with disabilities among younger generations.
We started responding within days of the devastating earthquake that hit Türkiye and north-west Syria in February 2023. Our Emergency Response Team was immediately deployed, providing situational updates and documenting the needs of affected people so we could identify local partners and devise a response plan.
In March 2023, we supported the distribution of 1,625 food baskets, 1,000 dignity kits and 1,000 hygiene kits in Gaziantep and Hatay governorates. This was carried out by our partner Turkish Red Crescent, who targeted at-risk households.
In north-west Syria
We supported our partner the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association to provide shelter and winterisation kits including blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting and soap to 1,160 households (approximately 5,800 individuals) in the districts of Azaz and Afrin, located in Aleppo Governate. Cash assistance (US$100) was offered to 1,200 older people and their families in Harim, Idlib to empower them to buy the essentials they needed. We also supported a new partner for Syria, Action for Humanity, who distributed food baskets including items such as tuna, mortadella, dates, beans, cheese, jam and juice to over 1,000 households across Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
Case study: East Africa drought
The old people who cannot migrate with the animals, they are just at home because they are very weak. They might just starve to death.
Tune is one of at least 16 million people across East Africa without enough to eat due to one of the most severe droughts in recent history. According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), by June 2022, 6 million people in Ethiopia, 3.5 million in Kenya and 5.8 million in South Sudan were in dire need of humanitarian support. As of 2023, the region is in its fifth failed rainy season – with failure of a sixth predicted.
The long-term severe lack of rainfall is causing a particular threat to pastoralist communities, who for centuries have herded livestock, cows, sheep and goats, roaming hundreds of kilometres in search of water and grazing land. Pastoralist families were already hard-hit by inflation and price rises due to the war in Ukraine – now they have seen millions of heads of livestock killed in the drought. Many have been left with no income and no way to feed themselves.
Before this started ravaging us, we had about 60 goats and sheep. We have lost most of them, and now we are left with about five. There are days when we live on one meal a day. But there are also days when we don’t eat a single meal.
HelpAge is supporting thousands of people affected by the drought by providing cash, food supplies, clean water, crop seeds and goats, and drilling and rehabilitating wells.
War in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine has been described as the ‘oldest’ humanitarian crisis in the world, with 8.9 million people, or 24 per cent of the pre-war population, aged 60 and over. We have been operating in eastern Ukraine since 2014, and our established network of volunteers – some of them older themselves – was a vital component of our response. To help us respond quickly and effectively from the start of the war, we started a Regional Humanitarian Assistance Programme covering Moldova, Poland and Ukraine. In the course of 2022, we helped thousands of people both within Ukraine and in the wider region with practical and psychological support.
Snapshot of war in Ukraine
46.5kolder people supported across Ukraine
10kolder people provided with home-based care
2.5kolder people received psychosocial support in the Donbas
10.5krefugees in Moldova provided with three hot meals a day
39kdisplaced people received food kits
4.5kolder people received cash assistance
1.5kolder people regularly visited community safe spaces
Find out more
Responding in Ukraine
From the outset of the war, HelpAge social workers and volunteers provided regular home visits (both in the east and the west) to more than 12,500 at-risk older people, many of whom were immobile and internally displaced. These visits were key to helping people access basic goods and services, cash assistance and assistive products such as toilet chairs and walkers – almost 40,000 received food kits including items such as pasta, beans, canned meat and rice (distributed with the help of partners Turbota pro Litnih v Ukraini and Right to Protection), 7,300 received hygiene kits and over 870 were supported with blankets and warm clothes.
We also set up 13 community safe spaces across Ukraine where older people can gather and engage in a range of free activities including exercise classes, arts and crafts, as well as accessing a psychologist. More than 2,300 people are now able to regularly attend these safe spaces, providing them more independence and connection to their community.
The key role of local organisations
While international charities and the United Nations (UN) played an important role in helping those affected by the crisis, most responders were local Ukrainian organisations. Despite the often-essential work they carried out, very little overseas aid went to support them.
We set out to alter this pattern, and in collaboration with Crown Agents, provided flexible cash grants ranging from £15,000 to £30,000 to 41 local organisations in eastern and western Ukraine. We also provided operational and programmatic guidance.
The grants were used to fund a variety of programmes ranging from provision of shelter, food and hygiene items to clothes, transport and psychosocial support. For example, the organisation Ya Mariupol provided older people with power banks, helping them stay in touch with loved ones and relatives during difficult times. The organisation Shelter Plus purchased a generator and equipment to provide fresh drinking water during shutdown or destruction of water supply systems. Overall, around 50,000 people benefitted from these grants.
Advocating for the rights of older people
When situations are moving fast on the ground, it is important to ensure that emergency responses are designed to include older people. We increased awareness, attention and understanding of the reality of the situation for older people in Ukraine through letters from HelpAge CEO Justin Derbyshire to UN agency heads, as well as distributing briefings, presentations, reports and statements over the course of the war.
In the UK, we chaired the BOND Humanitarian Working Group, leading the engagement of BOND’s 111 member NGOs with the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, to discuss joint responses to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. We subsequently helped set up the BOND Ukraine Sub-working Group, a group with 72 UK-based members that regularly meets to discuss policy issues and engage in structured dialogue with the government about the humanitarian response.
As members of the Ukraine Advocacy Working Group, we contributed to joint advocacy products to raise awareness of the challenges faced by older people as a result of the war. These included briefings for senior officials, and statements on the six-month and one-year anniversaries of the invasion.
We published a HelpAge report, “I’ve lost the life I knew” on the first anniversary of the invasion to highlight the stories of older people and their struggle for support. This was accompanied by a film, The Light in the Darkness made in Ukraine, filmed by and featuring only Ukrainians, which captured the spirit, resilience and love in a country at war.
In focus: Moldova
From the start of the war our humanitarian programme in Moldova offered emergency assistance and services for the refugees crossing the border from Ukraine, including hot meals, food packages, hygiene kits, assistive devices, medical vouchers, cash assistance and mental health counselling.
At the local level, the projects were implemented in collaboration with the Departments of Social Assistance and the Local Public Administration
(City Hall) in 28 districts of the country.
For both the country and HelpAge itself the situation was challenging for many reasons, such as Moldova’s proximity to the epicentre of the war, the government’s lack of preparedness to respond to the high influx of refugees, and a lack of systems in place for financial support, refugee IDs or temporary accommodation. Our Moldova office also had to quickly establish a humanitarian team to direct its own response.
Our support first focused on urgent needs, and over time this developed into psychological and mental health support for more than 35,000 refugees and Moldovan citizens.
Our response included:
- Food provided daily for older people at 45 Refugee Accommodation Centres in the form of hot meals, food packages and food vouchers.
- 6,208 refugees received hygiene kits, 2,432 received winterisation kits, 2,300 older refugees received food, hygiene or medical vouchers and 497 older refugees received assistive devices. A further 1,800 refugees were provided with gender-based violence training.
- Cash assistance to 900 people to help them prepare for winter.
- Over 3,000 older refugees offered access to psychosocial and legal counselling and social activities in 12 safe spaces across the country.
Our humanitarian assistance programme continued into 2023, supporting 30 Refugee Accommodation Centres, providing three meals a day and hygiene kits, and supporting the activity of 12 safe spaces, as well as additional assistance through cash, medical vouchers, food packages and social participation and integration activities.
Case study: My Ukraine United
When the full-scale invasion of Ukraine started, scores of people headed to the west of the country, desperate to flee the danger. As they struggled to find a place to stay, local people and volunteers of all ages realised they could not sit idle. On the day after the invasion, volunteers at HelpAge partner Moya Ukraina Edyna (My Ukraine United) found a vacant building, rolled up their sleeves, and set to work creating a safe shelter for refugees. Just one day later, it already had enough beds and mattresses for 80 people.
My Ukraine United was one of a number of local projects that HelpAge, in collaboration with Crown Agents, supported during the long months of the on-going war, providing cash grants aimed at providing hot food, shelter, accessible conditions, and basic assistance to displaced people, particularly older people and people with disabilities.
I had to evacuate from my hometown in the summer of 2022, after spending months under bombardment. I’m widowed and my daughter lives abroad, so I had no one to turn to or stay with. Here I have a roof over my head, a warm room and food. I’m lucky to have ended up here.
The number of people the shelter can now accommodate has since gone up to 240. Over the course of 2022, thanks to the work of My Ukraine United, the shelter has provided free meals, medical care, clothes, heating during blackouts and accessible bathroom facilities. It is now equipped with kitchen appliances, water boilers, ramps and generators.
We are living longer – by 2030, 1.4 billion people around the world will be aged 60 or over. This is positive. But for many older people in low- and middle-income countries, it brings fear and insecurity. Societal values coupled with weak employment, justice systems, social protection and health and care systems for older people are putting their lives and well-being at risk. We work with network members and partners to promote healthy ageing, maximising everyone’s ability to live healthy and valued lives while contributing to society as long as they can. We aim to reach the furthest behind first, so that everyone, everywhere is able to get the health and care
services they need, regardless of age.
Snapshot of healthy ageing
2.4mpeople able to access health and care services:
30across 30 countries
500kolder people vaccinated against Covid-19 through our programmes
14.3kpeople living with a disability can now access care
Find out more
Across the world
The Better Health for Older People in Africa project
The Better Health for Older People in Africa project (BHOPA) 2019–2022 was implemented by HelpAge through its country offices in Kenya and Mozambique. In Kenya we worked with Kenyan Aged People Require Information, Knowledge & Advancement, and Population Research Institute, and in Mozambique with Associação Cristã Interdonominacional para Desenvolvimento Comunitário and Diocese dos Libombos. The project focused on making health systems more inclusive, responsive, and accountable to the needs and rights of older people, particularly those with chronic diseases and disabilities.
As part of this project:
- 29,000 older people accessed health and care information and services, including through referrals, at the community level
- 1,000 Older People’s Association members were trained on healthy ageing
- 220 community health workers were trained on healthy ageing and supported to provide healthy ageing services
- 360 older citizen monitoring groups received capacity building
- 50 clinical officers and 220 nurses were trained on integrated care for older people.
In Mozambique, the project helped improve access to free care in public hospitals for older people, by raising awareness among older people and health workers of the free medical services available in public hospitals. In Kenya, the work contributed to increasing the numbers of older people registering as members of National Health Insurance Fund. A Community Health Volunteers Training Manual for Healthy Ageing and Older Persons’ Health was developed and approved. The training of health and care staff and volunteers also led to more responsive services, outreach programmes, and referral processes.
The project contributed to advancements at national policy level, particularly in Kenya where there were limited health and care policies for older people before the project. A National Healthy Ageing and Older Persons’ Health Strategy (2022–2026) is now in place.
Scaling-up Non-Communicable Diseases Interventions in South-East Asia project
Scaling-up Non-Communicable Diseases Interventions in South-East Asia (SUNI-SEA project) is a collaboration between ten consortium partners, implemented in Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam. The project aims to improve the prevention and control of hypertension and diabetes by strengthening primary healthcare, and achieving meaningful engagement of people and communities.
In Vietnam and Myanmar, the SUNI-SEA project community interventions are implemented by Older People’s Associations in collaboration with primary health care staff. Last year, the project teams focused on consolidating the community interventions. These included non-communicable diseases (NCDs) screening activities using a bespoke phone application, health promotion and referring people with NCD risks to the health facility. Five hundred and fifty-three people also participated in skills building activities for volunteers, local club managers and health staff. Older people attended stakeholder meetings and advocacy events. Policy briefs were developed based on the learning from the project in both countries.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
A blanket failure to invest in primary health care means at least half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services. Universal health coverage is defined as everyone, everywhere being able to access the health and care services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship. Progress towards UHC is essential for promoting healthy ageing, delivering social and economic development, and building resilient and equitable societies that respond effectively in times of crisis.
We started the rollout of our UHC strategy in 2022, kicking off with a small grants initiative that distributed 15 grants to 12 network members, two partners and one country office across 13 countries. This helped deliver advocacy and campaign activities involving more than 1,500 older people around special events like World Health Day, as well as multistakeholder and media engagements to demand better services for older people. We held information sessions on the rights to health and care for older people, and collected evidence through focus group discussions on the barriers they face in accessing services. We also trained 20 partners to strengthen their leadership and expertise on UHC. And the release of our report, Achieving Universal Health Coverage fit for an ageing world helped us engage with the World Health Organization (WHO), UN agencies and government officials to drive progress on the issue.
Covid-19 vaccination rollout
The global Covid-19 vaccination rollout was the biggest and fastest in history, but uptake among older people was dangerously low. As late as 18 months after the outbreak, only 17 per cent of people in low- and middle-income countries had received their primary course of vaccination.
A key focus for HelpAge and our partners and network members in 2022 was addressing barriers to older people receiving their vaccinations and designing community-based approaches to enhance vaccine uptake.
We worked in partnership with the WHO to develop an updated Covid-19 vaccination roll-out plan, as well as offering technical assistance to network members and partners across 11 countries (Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). In Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda, our partners successfully lobbied their national governments to amend their vaccine plans to include strategies to reach older people. In collaboration with these governments, door-to-door vaccinations were conducted to reach older people with disabilities, and those who were house-bound.
Older People’s Associations played a key role in mobilising communities. Many worked with their country’s Ministry of Health to encourage people to attend awareness meetings – the government would in return ensure vaccinations for attendees.
Partners in nine countries trained leaders of Older People’s Associations and community health volunteers to become vaccine champions, spreading the word in remote and hard-to-reach communities and addressing fears and mis-information. By encouraging inter-generational conversations between old and young, we were able to ensure that people from all generations were sensitised about the Covid-19 vaccination.
As a result of this work and through additional projects secured by our partners with our support, more than half a million older people across Colombia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Sri Lanka and Uganda were able
to access the Covid-19 vaccine.
Countries in focus
We continued improving health services for older people in the long-standing Rohingya refugee camps along with our partners Resource Integration Centre and Young Power in Social Action. Across 10 camps and five host communities, 10,000 people were screened for malnourishment, and cooking training was offered to help people understand the nutritional value of food, cooking methods and food preservation. One hundred and fifty older people also received food supplements.
Eye clinics were held in 10 camps with more than 500 people attending, with many receiving pairs of glasses or cataract surgery support. Sessions on exercise and home-based care were held for 1,500 older people. All the attendees were offered the Covid-19 vaccination.
We supplied our partner Hospice Ethiopia with essential drugs and medical supplies to put in place holistic palliative care for 80 older people living with life-threatening illnesses. Services including pain and symptom relief and wound care was available both at people’s homes and in local outpatient departments.
In Kenya we focused on a community health volunteer model, working alongside the Ministry of Health to sign off a national community health volunteer training manual on the care of older people. We rolled out training sessions to narrow the gap between community health systems and governmental health care facilities. We also supported the government’s sign-off on a national Healthy Ageing Strategy. These new initiatives helped more than 2.5 million older people increase access to age-friendly health and care services.
At the community level, our partners Kenyan Aged People Require Information, Knowledge and Advancement, and Kibera Day Care Centre for the Elderly formed 76 Older People’s Associations, where older people can access health services in their local area. Ninety-six per cent of members reported a positive increase in their health and well-being as a result.
Lebanon and Jordan
We implemented a two-year regional project to provide community-based health and protection services for
the most at-risk Syrian refugees and host community members, in particular older people and people with disabilities.
During the first year:
- 88 older people received specialised mental health services in clinics/in-person.
- 438 older people received mental health support through a telephone hotline.
- 96 older people with limited access to clinics were provided with mental health services through home visits.
- 1,315 received awareness raising on mental health and protection issues.
- 57 participated in intergenerational and peer support group sessions.
- 34 were referred to relevant service providers as needed.
- 347 received multi-purpose cash assistance.
- At-risk project participants from other age groups also benefitted from project services.
HelpAge worked as part of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) team to support the government of the Maldives in designing a Strengthening Gender Inclusive Initiatives project, which aimed to increase access to sustainable gender-responsive social services. The project successfully secured funding to reduce the unpaid care burden on women caring for older family members and young children, including through the development of a long-term care and support strategy for older people and their caregivers. It has the potential to benefit the 13 per cent of older women and 10 per cent of older men – and their caregivers – in the Maldives who report a disability.
To support the project design, we provided technical assistance to the government, delivering training sessions informed by international policy, good practice and literature, as well as wide stakeholder consultation. We also co-designed project activities with the government and the ADB, which includes setting up a grant mechanism for local organisations to develop related services.
The four-year project secured US$7.5 million of ADB funding and also won an ADB award for best gender project for comprehensive transformative gender agenda design, including on childcare, aged care, gender-based violence, gender data and gender-responsive budgeting.
As part of the SUNI-SEA project project, we helped launch a new app that means people can now use their mobile phones to assess their risk factors for a range of non-communicable diseases, including hypertension and diabetes. The app was implemented by Inclusive Self-Help Groups and the Shwe Da Nu self-help group in Myanmar and was backed up by an online learning portal, which offered further information on public health approaches and treatments. The digital information helped older people become more aware of their health status and risk factors, and get help when they need it. It also had the benefit of increasing digital literacy of participants at the same time.
We know that assistive devices such as reading glasses, walking sticks, elbow crutches, shower chairs and pill organisers can make a huge difference to the lives of older people. And so, we piloted a project in partnership with the WHO to distribute a range of assistive devices in communities across Tanzania, with the aim of establishing a system to strengthen access to assistive technologies among older people and people with disabilities.
Over the course of the pilot, 64 different types of assistive devices were procured and distributed to 2,986 older people and people living with disabilities by our partner Morogoro Elderly People’s Organisation. Alongside WHO, we also rolled out training for 192 providers of formal and informal health services across communities to ensure their correct use and application. By involving local and regional government departments in this initiative, securing their support with ongoing supervision, and monitoring and evaluation, we helped set a sustainable community model for improving access to assistive technologies that can in time be adapted to address other issues, including non-communicable diseases and rehabilitation.
Vietnam’s Intergenerational Self-Help Clubs (ISHCs) provided a range of health services including training, medical check-ups, monthly health monitoring and access to health insurance, as well as homecare services. A huge 92 per cent of members accessed these services.
In addition, hundreds of screening events and thousands of health education sessions were conducted for more than 24,000 older people. The topics were chosen based on older people’s needs – for example hypertension, stroke, and dengue fever. Members reported that these sessions were practical, easy to understand and recall. They helped increase older people’s health care knowledge and skills, enabling them to take better care of themselves and their family members, preventing disease and managing chronic conditions.
A total of 346 sports and exercise teams were also formed, with 92 per cent of members practising physical activities often. More than 100 cultural teams gave almost 1,000 performances over the year that helped improve their mental health. These culture teams and performances were the highlight of ISHCs, boosting physical and mental health of club members and older people and strengthening community bonding.
Additionally, more than 1,000 homecare volunteers took care of almost 700 homecare clients. Volunteers supported in various ways, especially by befriending older people, helping with household chores, personal hygiene and basic rehabilitation. According to the 2022 annual survey, 91.6 per cent of members reported that their health has improved substantially since joining an ISHC. Ninety-seven per cent of ISHC members also reported an increase in their confidence.
Case study: Covid equity in Tanzania
Since receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, I have experienced a sense of relief and peace of mind. Now I feel a deep sense of responsibility towards my fellow older people and the entire community. I am proud to be part of a collective effort to combat the pandemic and safeguard the health and well-being of those around me.
Covid-19 laid bare many things about the world’s health systems, one of the most alarming being the ageism and often complete lack of support for older people in many countries’ immunisation programmes.
In Tanzania, the government set an ambitious goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of the population against Covid-19 by June 2022. In recognition of the fact that older people were a vital group, they needed to persuade them to get vaccinated if they were to achieve their target. The government partnered with UNICEF and HelpAge to help roll out their immunisation programme.
Our role was to directly engage older people and promote community-led prevention and vaccination. Working with UNICEF, we targeted 18,650 older people across five regions, supporting community dialogues and mobilising home-based care givers and health workers to disseminate accurate information on vaccines. We provided outreach services to those who couldn’t visit clinics, in particular those who were housebound or with physical challenges. More than 2,000 people from 80 Older People’s Associations, 25 women’s groups and 20 youth groups were trained to promote Covid-19 preventative measures, collect community feedback and respond.
We also organised peer-to-peer discussions and paired young people with older people, encouraging different generations to discuss the need for vaccination and the importance of not spreading the virus.
To ensure people didn’t miss their second dose, we followed up with registration cards to remind people of their next appointment, setting up mobile vaccination points in remote areas so that they were easier to reach.
By September 2022, a total of 262,839 people (including 33,820 older people, 2,130 people living with disabilities and 62,336 young people) had received their vaccination through the programme.
Around the world, a combination of discrimination and ageism can leave many older people excluded from employment and work opportunities, financial services, skills development and employment generation schemes. We are working to make sure governments put systems in place that protect and promote sustainable incomes to enable us to live a good quality of life as we get older.
Snapshot of income security
2.2molder people received a social pension or improved financial support for the first time as a result of our work:
8across 8 countries
1.3mwere older women
263kwere people with disabilities
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Across the world
Accountability and Fulfilment for Older People to Raise their Dignity (AFFORD)
The AFFORD programme, run between partners and HelpAge country offices, engages governments, community leaders and Older People’s Associations across four countries (Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania) to improve social protection systems and the lives of older people.
The approach is tailored to the local context in each individual country and has resulted in some great progress:
A government department dedicated to older people was formed, and discussions initiated on the need to increase the number of older people accessing the country’s Productive Safety Net Programme. After ratifying the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older People in 2020, the government has now submitted the articles of the ratified protocol with the African Union Office.
AFFORD influenced partners and the government to move from a means-tested approach to pension qualification – whereby eligibility for a pension is determined by someone’s income or poverty level – to categorical targeting by age group or vulnerability – e.g. older people, people with disabilities and so on. This meant 14,500 extra older people were able to access social cash transfers.
The government announced an increase of the old age pension amount from 20,000 shillings to 50,000 shillings which will be implemented from July 2023 onwards.
AFFORD influenced the government to increase the number of beneficiaries accessing the national Basic Social Subsidy Programme.
Food, Fuel and Finance (3F) crisis
The combined impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, climate change and other ongoing conflicts have resulted in people all over the world experiencing severe economic stress and social tensions. HelpAge joined forces with partners in 10 countries to carry out research and advocacy on how the crisis is impacting older people and to promote the realisation of their rights. This work took place in Argentina, Colombia, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Malawi, Mozambique, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Yemen.
The resulting multi-country study, “Things have just gotten worse” (published in April 2023) revealed the impacts of the 3F crisis on older people across the world. The findings showed that large numbers of older people need urgent interventions and humanitarian aid to address alarmingly high levels of food poverty and insecurity. Sadly, more older people reported receiving support from neighbours and family members than from their governments.
The evidence we uncovered was used to develop global and national advocacy strategies, which are currently being implemented in the study countries. It also contributed to developing proposals on issues
related to shock and crisis situations, with a specific focus on shock responsive social protection.
Projects with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the Middle East
In the course of the last year, we worked with the ILO on two projects on social protection, focusing on older people’s need for a social pension in Lebanon and Palestine.
In Lebanon we worked with Amel Association to conduct research on the needs of older people and demand for establishing social pensions. We mobilised civil society and Lebanon’s NGO network by conducting awareness-raising and advocacy activities and organising consultations to build consensus. Videos were produced reflecting the severe hardships faced by older people, and a participatory workshop (attended by academics, NGO and civil society representatives, activists and older people) was organised to identify different possibilities of advocating for the establishment of social pension.
In Palestine, along with our partners El-Wedad Society in Gaza and Juzoor for Health and Social Development in the West Bank, we actively contributed to a dialogue on social protection by producing a policy brief and a video series highlighting the need for establishing a social pension. We also developed a policy and advocacy module on social protection in Palestine, and conducted a training of trainers attended by 32 participants including older people, local and international NGOs, civil society and governmental representatives from Gaza and Ramallah.
Countries in focus
The Bangladesh government currently provides an old age allowance to the poorest people aged over 65. However, around three million people are still not claiming what is rightfully theirs. We partnered with Resource Integration Centre and Young Power in Social Action on a joint information and advocacy campaign to alert people to their eligibility for the benefit. As a result, 200,000 older people have now begun claiming the old age allowance they are entitled to.
We also worked with network members and other stakeholders to push the government to introduce a universal social pension and widen the eligibility criteria, so it’s not just aimed at the poorest people. The government has now indicated its willingness to introduce a universal social pension and plans to implement it are being put in place.
With funding from the World Food Programme, we implemented a Self-Reliance Project across Rohingya refugee camps. We started by carrying out a survey to identify potential income generating activities that people were keen to embark on. Our partners then provided skills training to 1,500 older people and people with disabilities on four selected trades: bamboo craft, handicraft, fishing net and mat making, and pickle making.
At the end of the training, we provided raw materials and cash grants to help people set up their own businesses, also organising markets and fairs to spread the word and create demand for the products.
We strengthened the capacity of our Older People’s Associations and institutions in Ethiopia, especially Older Citizens’ Monitoring Groups that proactively engage in ensuring older people can access their legal entitlements.
The findings of the 3F research – which showed that older people, especially older women were disproportionately affected by the global increase in the price of fuel and food – were presented to local authorities, and policy dialogue sessions were organised to present the needs and priorities of older people to decision-makers, policy developers and media houses. We also supported the national Age Demands Action group, a network of campaigners and partners who expose ageism and protect human rights in older age, to engage with these activities by providing them with materials and information to develop advocacy messages, materials on constitution provisions, programmes assisting older people and training on rights based programming and rights of older people. This enabled the group to engage in and lobby for policy-influencing processes.
With our partner Ethiopia Elderly and Pensioners National Association, we improved household incomes, food intake and access to health services for 550 destitute older people who were struggling to make ends meet because of challenges they were facing, many brought on by the global economic crisis. We helped provide them with hot, nutritious food and covered medical costs and their community-based health insurance premiums. In addition, we helped improve the household income of 212 destitute older people, meaning they could afford to pay for basic needs such as food, utilities and school materials for their grandchildren.
Since 2019 Mozambique has been affected by droughts, flooding and tropical cyclones that destroy lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure. To mitigate some of the effects, we partnered with Associaçáo Cristá Interdenominacional Para O Desenvolvimento Da Comunidade and launched a pilot renewable energy project which uses locally-based materials to produce energy, with 100 households receiving ecological stoves and briquettes. Users reported that they found the new stoves useful, especially women, as they no longer had to spend so much time looking for firewood and cooking. Households also reported income savings as they now use less, and cheaper, energy compared to collecting firewood and buying charcoal. The HelpAge country team is now responding to a USAID call to scale up this project in Tete province.
In Myanmar, we have been strengthening our community-based network in order to expand the amount of project work we can undertake. In 2022, the network formalised into four tiers: village, township, regional and national. Each group now has clearly defined election processes and responsibilities, allowing for better alignment and improved coordination. The network soon took strides in expanding their ISHCs, with 20 new groups formed in Kayin, and more planned for the future.
These Self-Help Clubs are a vital component of our support to communities. Following the socio-economic crisis after the February 2021 coup, project activities were recalibrated to address immediate needs, such as food kits, cash transfers, and home care services, reaching more than 2,500 households. Existing vital village initiatives, including low-interest loan schemes, continued. These schemes, which are lifelines for older people and people with disabilities, helped 352 individuals borrow a total of US$65,838 last year. This amplification of community funds illustrates the Groups’ multiplier impact, enhancing community well-being over time.
Additionally, we provided social protection funds, as well as vocational training, assistive devices, and mental health and counselling services, to 128 Self-Help Groups, which was used for the benefit of almost 9,000 members.
Shock responsive social protection may be a slightly unwieldy phrase, but the concept behind it is simple: empower older people with livelihood skills so they are able to earn their own incomes. In Pakistan, we held vocational skills training with partner Sarhad Rural Support Programme for 563 people in trades such as electrician, sanitation worker, solar system installation, e-commerce, battery repair, beautician, bridal embroidery, block printing and tailoring. At the end of the training, trainees were provided start-up tools to help them establish their own businesses.
- 150 older women received training in the use of natural resources. This focused on livestock management, increasing animal milk production, and setting up onion nurseries. By enhancing their income through improved agricultural practices, the women have been able to contribute more to their households and achieve financial stability.
- A further 60 older women received practical support such as solar systems and racks for displaying their items to help them establish home-based businesses.
- 160 older women were trained in business management skills, which helped them increase the reach of their small businesses to wider markets. This has resulted in an increase in both income and empowerment.
Together with our partners Uganda Reach the Aged Association (URAA) and the Grandmothers’ Consortium (GMC), we launched the Social Protection Platform of Uganda (SPPU) to lobby for older people’s rights. Together we persuaded the government to address challenges in delayed pension payments and accessibility, which enabled almost 360,000 older people to received increased payments.
A major achievement in Tanzania was the Zanzibar government’s announcement of a 150 per cent increase in the Zanzibar universal pension. Along with our partners Juwauza and Reach All for Development Organization, we convened meetings with key government ministers to identify gaps in current policies and suggest alternative approaches. We also engaged directly with the president and other government officials, presenting the rationale for increasing the universal pension value. As a result, the government announced it would increase the value of the universal state pension from the equivalent of around £7 to around £17.50, a huge leap in income for the almost 30,000 people who claim it.
Microcredit is one of the main means of support at Vietnam’s ISHCs. It can be a great way for older people to start their own businesses or finance improvements on their home. In 2022, Vietnam’s ISHCs had 3,068 active borrowers, and 320 income-generation groups were set up, which linked members with their own small businesses (for example, chicken raising, vegetable farming or handicraft making) to each other, so they could share experiences and knowledge.
ISHCs also helped more than 2,500 older people access the legal benefits they were entitled to, and 898 members were helped to connect with other local loan resources. Overall, in 2022 members’ incomes increased by 18.5 per cent, compared to 2021.
Case study: The inspiring journey
of Jamala Bibi
I am very happy to beneﬁt from Natural Resource Management training. All previous training held by other organisations in my village were age-bound and I couldn’t participate. I am very thankful to HelpAge International and Sarhad Rural Support Programme for integrating older people, particularly older women.
Despite owning her own land, Jamala had been unable to cultivate it as her husband worked away from home and traditionally only men can work the land.
However, after completing her training, where she acquired skills in onion nursery cultivation and learned about the vital role of women in agriculture, Jamala recognised the untapped potential of cash crops such as onions and the suitability of the local region for cultivation. This motivated her to grow onions on her once-barren land.
Jamala’s first harvest yielded impressive results in both quantity and income. She says:
Selling the onions in the nearby market brought me a favourable price.
The profits were so remarkable that her husband joined in, supporting her efforts by opening a shop in the local market.
Jamala’s increased income not only supports her family, but also empowers her in making personal choices. She is proud that she now also contributes to her children’s education.
A society for all ages
We believe that every older person is a valued member of society who has the right, whatever their needs, to participate in their families, communities and society, based on what is important to them. That’s why we want to achieve a world where we are all treated fairly and without discrimination in older age. Promoting a society for all ages ensures that older people can feel connected and participate in life in the way that they choose.
Snapshot of a society for all ages
14.9kolder people’s groups supported
2.3knew older people’s groups set up
2.2mgroup members engaged in improving life for older people
906kolder people participating in influencing and advocacy initiatives to addressage discrimination and ageism
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Across the world
Fighting age discrimination
Spurred by the discriminatory healthcare laws and policies put in place by many countries as a result of Covid-19, in 2022 we researched and launched our global report, Advancing equality for older people. The report examined the legal frame-works for prohibiting age discrimination across 12 countries, analysing them for consistency with international standards. It identified gaps and helped raise awareness on the inadequacy of both the international human rights framework and national legislation in protecting older people’s right to equality and non-discrimination.
After the report’s global launch, partners and network members in four countries (Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines and Tanzania) followed up with a range of activities calling for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation from their governments. Our partners The Coalition of Services of the Elderly, Inc. in the Philippines, for example, organised online discussions, national consultations, and radio broadcasts, while Ageing Concern Foundation in Kenya created a technical working group and organised awareness-raising activities with media.
Age-friendly cities and communities
The Let’s Go Guide launched in July 2022, is all about demonstrating how easy (and cost effective) it is to make communities more age-friendly. The guide showcases exciting, innovative, small-scale and low or no-cost projects having a big impact on the lives of older people in communities across the Americas. Projects included a pop-up intergenerational photography exhibition in Quillon, Chile, highlighting the issues faced by older residents. Or in Valparaiso, Chile, local artists worked with older people to create a mural reflecting their links with the neighbourhood, reinforcing a sense of belonging and ownership.
To encourage communities to start their own initiatives, we worked with our partners Pan American Health Organization and American Association of Retired Persons, and network members to provide technical support to seven selected initiatives across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Peru. These projects contributed to growing momentum around the age-friendly cities movement in the region and made a valuable contribution to understanding how cities and communities can begin their journeys.
Influencing national ageing policies
In order to highlight how national policies impact the lives of older people in India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, we launched Policy-in-practice case studies analysing governments’ ageing policies.
The case studies revealed that none of the countries were fully able to demonstrate a rights-based approach that empowers older people and strengthens their inclusion and participation in society. They also highlighted the need for more specific criteria with which to systematically appraise and categorise policy interventions as adopting a rights-based approach, and recommended good practices that would deliver meaningful improvements. These may now be considered in the UN’s next steps for developing fuller guidance to support implementation and adaptation of ageing policies across the Asia-Pacific region.
Vibrant Older People’s Associations
HelpAge has worked with Older People’s Associations and similar community-level organisations for more than 30 years. These groups are key to creating a vibrant community of older people who can learn from each other and advocate for better recognition from their governments. In 2022 we focused on helping to strengthen, grow and adapt organisations, so they can better fight for the rights of older people in their communities and countries.
We did this through:
- Training workshops in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Vietnam on subjects including social protection, livelihoods, psychosocial support, addressing ageism, rights and voice training and access to information.
- An online learning exchange bringing together network members and HelpAge staff to share experiences and approaches to working with
Older People’s Associations. More than 60 network members and staff from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Cameroon, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, UK, Vietnam and Zambia took part in the sessions.
- A Cambodia delegation made a study visit to Vietnam, where Older People’s Associations are making incredible progress.
HelpAge undertook an assessment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators on older people in The Gambia, India, Sudan, Tanzania and Ukraine, in collaboration with Statistics without Borders, a volunteer outreach group of the American Statistical Association. The assessment presented data on the state of older women and men, their families and communities, with information gathered from the labour force, household income and expenditure surveys, and the Demographic and Health Surveys administered in these countries over 2007–2018.
The evidence shows that clear data on the situation for older people is prevented by a variety of factors such as missing data, social dynamics and small sample sizes. In order to capitalise on the findings, we worked with the Leave No One Behind Partnership to bring network members into national coalitions in Denmark, Malawi and Palestine. These coalitions developed action plans for generating community-based data on marginalised groups to complement and fill gaps in official SDG data produced by the UN.
Countries in focus
In Moldova, a major intervention was made in response to a Reform of the Social Assistance System announced by the government in March 2022. Together with members of the Platform on Active Ageing, we analysed the basic package of social services (funded directly from the state budget) and the findings showed that although social services included older people as potential beneficiaries, in 2021 they represented only 3 per cent of total beneficiaries of services. HelpAge and partners provided recommendations to the government to establish at least two dedicated national services for older people all over the country – a social home care service and a social canteen providing food and hot meals. As a result, the government accepted the recommendations, and the bill now includes an extension of the minimum package of social services specifically dedicated to older people.
Over the last few years, HelpAge helped establish 200 Older People’s Associations across Pakistan. In 2022, the groups were trained on advocacy, and are now actively working in their villages and districts to improve the lives and livelihoods of older people, including running Age Demands Action campaigns and meeting with policymakers.
We also established 55 Senior Citizen Committees with a membership of 1,125 people, and formed 19 women’s sub-committees with 228 women members in Khyber district. Khyber, near the border with Afghanistan, has been badly affected by clashes between militant fighters and security forces, forcing many people to flee their homes. HelpAge has promoted peacebuilding through intergenerational activities around livelihoods, skills development, sports and reviving local cultural activities.
We also carried out training for Senior Citizen Committees on subjects including community management skills and leadership management skills, and as a result they have developed links with a variety of government departments to cater to the needs of the community and issues of older people.
More than 13,000 Older People’s Forums have now been established across Tanzania, connecting thousands of older people to take collective action on their rights. In 2022 we empowered the Forums to oversee and respond to the government’s new national strategy to combat killings of older people accused of witchcraft – still a dangerous issue in the country. Members monitored implementation of the strategy and offered feedback from communities of its effectiveness and gaps.
In collaboration with Forum leaders, partners and our network members Relief Development Society, Saidia Wazee Karagwe and Tanzania Mission to the Poor and Disabled, we also helped develop a social media communications platform where people can upload and view updates on any incidents related to older people’s abuse, violence or killings. The platform has helped to create ongoing empowerment for members, who can now track incidents of abuse and violence and raise their voices to call for justice.
Vietnam’s 120 ISHCs are bringing amazing benefits to their almost 6,500 members, as well as thousands of non-members.
- US$317,000+ of funds was granted to 1,410 borrowers.
- 300+ income generating groups were set up, with members starting their own businesses in chicken raising, vegetable farming and handicraft making, among others.
- 2,500+ older people were helped to access state social benefits.
- almost 900 were connected to loan resources.
- 1,734 community events were held, including road cleaning and flower growing.
- 2,650 older people benefitted from ISHC-mobilised resources, through donated money, gifts, tools, food, health insurance, help with harvesting, etc.
- 1,277 sessions on health care education for 24,154 older people were held.
- 55,998 people benefited from healthcare information sessions through loud speakers.
- 346 sports and exercise teams were formed, with 92 per cent of members frequently practicing physical activities.
- 130 cultural teams were established with 880 performance events.
- 5,493 older people received monthly health monitoring.
- 10,206 older community members receive health check-ups.
- 1,222 homecare volunteers took care of 695 clients.
Case study: Age-friendly cities in action
Alongside our partner Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), we are supporting an Age-Friendly Cities campaign across Latin America and the Caribbean. To inspire communities, partner organisations and groups to set up their own age-friendly projects, we helped produce the Let’s Go Guide packed with ideas on how to turn communities into great places to grow older.
Small grants and technical support were on offer too, leading to some exciting work across cities. For example, older people in Bogota, Colombia, used their knowledge of the land to reinvigorate local community gardens (see picture above), while bright blue tricycles were put into use in Santa Catarina, Brazil, helping older people monitor and improve their health.
Following this, in 2022, HelpAge’s age-friendly cities and communities work focused on voice training – empowering communities to engage directly with their local authorities, to source funding and support for the projects they want to see in their neighbourhoods.
We developed an age-friendly cities and communities module for our Voice Training Toolkit training HelpAge network members, Older People’s Associations, civil society organisations and leaders of older people on how to increase space for older people’s voices on issues that affect their urban environment. The initiative includes an intergenerational aspect, to strengthen community relationships between older and young people, and incorporates advocacy action planning to increase conversations with local authorities.
The module includes a training of trainers element, allowing the materials to be scaled for workshop size and adapted based on context. The goal is that an increased number of communities will have more older and young people working together to raise the voices of older people, especially regarding their urban surroundings, in areas such as public spaces and transportation.
Jesus was part of an Urban Gardens project, where communities came together to plant fruit and vegetable orchards in communities within urban spaces. When asked if this activity contributed to healthy ageing amongst older people, he says:
Yes (…) It’s nice because most of the (older) people from my group, ‘mis abuelos’, as I call them, come from the countryside. There, they used to have more freedom because they used to sow and cultivate their lands. They came here to be locked up in a house and the orchard gives them back a bit of the freedom and joy they lost. It allows them to remember their past, remember the place where they used to live, where they were brought up when they were children and enjoyed nature. The orchard has brought about this change and has had a positive influence on our health.
Rights and inclusion
We all want to live in a world where we have the right to be treated with fairness and respect, and where we can make decisions about our lives, no matter our age. International human rights systems and national laws are failing to address ageism and age discrimination and protect our rights in older age. We believe older people must be part of the discussion on their human rights. We work with civil society and partner organisations to promote older people’s rights in national legislation and policies. And we support civil society engagement with governments to push for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.
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Across the world
Fighting for a UN Convention for Older People
The UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) was set up in 2010 to strengthen protection of older people’s rights. Ahead of its 13th session in March 2023, HelpAge pushed hard for a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons, raising awareness among member states of the challenges older people face with regards to the topics under discussion: the right to health and access to health services, and social inclusion.
To highlight the reality of life for older people who are denied their rights, we published and submitted two consultation reports based on in-depth interviews with older people, Healthy ageing for us all and Including us. The reports ensured that older people’s voices could be made visible at the OEWG, helping raise awareness on the specific rights violations older people face and the need for a UN Convention. We’re pleased to report member states at the OEWG achieved consensus on drafting recommendations by the next session, which will bring them closer to finally fulfilling their mandate.
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People
HelpAge is one of the founding members and a part of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP), a network of more than 400 organisations committed to strengthening the rights and voice of older people globally. As the host to the Secretariat, we are responsible for providing administrative support to GAROP to ensure its smooth and effective functioning. HelpAge sits as an observer on the GAROP Steering Group, playing an active role in its task groups and providing input into the direction of GAROP’s work. Last year, we provided technical support and advice to GAROP for their Age With Rights campaign and broader advocacy around the UN Convention on the rights of older people.
Ageing and gender advocacy
Advocacy plays a vital role in fighting for the rights of older people at influential meetings. Our presence at the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2023 ensured the specific issues faced by older women were given a voice. We mobilised staff and network members to participate: 13 network members attended task force meetings, and representatives from two formed part of the HelpAge delegation.
Rose Gahire, Vice Chair of network member NSINDAGIZA in Rwanda, made a statement to the general assembly on the challenges faced by older women in relation to digital innovation and technological change.
Stereotypes and prejudice about older women’s ability and willingness to use digital technologies are widespread, yet many older women are able and willing to learn digital skills. To promote their digital inclusion, we need age-friendly design of digital services, ethical and safe digital environments that embrace the diversity of older women, and intergenerational collaboration to break down social and cultural barriers. Specifically engaging older women in the design of policies and programmes can help ensure that initiatives are designed in a way that supports the needs of women of all ages.
Meanwhile, our parallel event in partnership with youth-focused network member, Reach a Hand Uganda, brought generations and sectors together, to encourage collaboration on older women’s empowerment.
We also launched our report Older women’s lived experiences of gendered ageism and two videos: United for older women’s rights and Bringing generations together for change at the CSW. Our engagement with CSW is crucial to strengthening relationships with existing strategic partners, such as WHO, building relationships with donors and governments, and identifying key allies to support our longer-term collaboration.
Countries in focus
Through the Age Equality Project, HelpAge in Kenya partnered with the Ageing Concern Foundation to promote legal reform and the adoption of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that effectively tackle ageism. A technical working group made up of civil society, government representatives and older people reviewed 17 international, regional and national legal frameworks – identifying 25 age discriminatory gaps, which were documented and disseminated to stakeholders and media to inform legislation in Kenya. The project also supported formation of three Older People’s Associations in Kisii county, as a platform or awareness raising and advocacy on the rights of older persons.
In Moldova we worked with 12 partner organisations to support two government institutions to increase their assistance and protection services for victims of violence, so they can be more accessible for older women and represent the best practice of service adaptation for victims of violence.
The project also set up a mobile team of experts who supported about 100 at-risk older people, mainly women, and their family members to understand types of violence, and recognise them so that they can apply for services. About 700 older people from 12 target communities participated in activities on awareness raising about violence and neglect in their communities and now know what violence is, types of violence and support services.
In 2022 HelpAge held the secretariat of the Ageing, Disability and Diversity Task Force, a recognised technical platform in Pakistan where we receive support requests from government authorities and UN agencies to help them become a model for the global approach to humanitarian responses. This offered an opportunity to ensure the inclusion of older men and women and people with disabilities in humanitarian responses. We trained more than 300 people across member organisations of the Task Force, and helped strengthen the systems of relevant government authorities. As a result, older women and men with disabilities were prioritised for direct humanitarian support, while 2,500 protection kits were exclusively designed for and provided to older women and men.
Case study: Supporting older women at risk of domestic violence in Moldova
Ana works at one of 12 partner organisations helping us implement a three-year project aimed at improving the lives of older women at risk of domestic violence in communities across Moldova.
In 2022, after receiving training on recognising, preventing and supporting victims of domestic violence, each partner organisation mobilised a group of volunteers, mainly older people, to create a community support network for those at risk of or suffering abuse. Community awareness-raising activities carried out across these networks now help provide information and support for more than 650 at-risk older people, who are also encouraged to attend group social sessions such as craft clubs and outdoor movies to stop them feeling isolated.
Additionally, volunteers organise ‘warm house’ and ‘clean house’ activities. For a warm house, two to five volunteers visit an older person considered at-risk to socialise, tell them about activities and services, or to celebrate important events such as birthdays and Easter. When it’s time to clean the house, volunteers gather at the older person’s house to help clean and repair household items.
Beneficiaries and their families also receive free legal and psychological counselling should they wish it. The legal expert team is fully mobile, travelling to communities to discuss issues such as land entitlement, inheritance and legal protection in cases of separation or divorce.
To help women who are financially dependent on a potentially abusive partner or family member, we set up an income generating scheme to offer training in skills including farming, sewing, animal breeding and beekeeping. The women were then offered consultancy and financial support, taking part in exhibitions and fairs and networking with other female entrepreneurs.
I never thought the problem of domestic violence affected so many families. I was surprised to see many women, who I thought have a happy life and are well respected in the community, suffering from abuse and hiding all this stress. So many stories, so much pain.
Few better understand the impact of climate change than older people. They hold generations-old knowledge on issues like how to read the weather, or where safe water and higher ground can be found. Many have survived the endless cycles of droughts, floods, vicious summers and cruel winters that are the result of our ongoing climate catastrophe. Yet they are too often absent from the climate debate: their skills and know-how side-lined; their rich experience ignored. Working with network members and partners, we champion older people’s unique abilities and vast experience, putting their voices and experience central to the fight against climate change.
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Across the world
In November 2022 we launched our #GreyAndGreen Manifesto committing to put older people at the forefront of climate solutions. The manifesto set out how we can unite and galvanise the thousands of older people who are either impacted by or among the great fighters and solvers of this crisis.
We held a consultation with 50 experts to discuss the challenges of climate change and their impact on older people. The result was the creation of a roadmap of climate actions to help achieve the manifesto priorities. This roadmap provides a summary of activities necessary to achieve the inclusion of older people in climate actions. Already, 25 network members have signed up.
Our top five priorities:
- Ensure that older people are engaged, supported and involved in climate mitigation and adaptation initiatives.
- Spearhead the leadership of older people by amplifying their voice when demanding climate action and holding leaders accountable.
- Bring older and younger people together to take a collective stance on climate change.
- Promote international solidarity on climate change.
- Collect the data and shout the facts about how the climate catastrophe affects older people.
We pledged to work in partnership with members of the HelpAge global network, building on their skills and capacities to support and raise the voice of older people in the climate crisis.
HelpAge will provide technical, convening and resource development support to network members, informed by the need for urgent action to combat climate crisis.
Climate change: Our strategic approach
In November 2022, a scoping report on climate change was commissioned to guide HelpAge’s strategic direction on climate change, bringing the links between climate change and population ageing together.
We carried out external stakeholder consultations and tested the recommendations in a workshop. The report has identified four strategic pathways for HelpAge aligned with its 2030 Strategy:
- Integrate ageing into foresight and planning to provide a new perspective on climate action.
- Consider the needs of older people and an ageing population worldwide to create transformative resilience.
- Create opportunities for intergenerational solidarity for climate actions.
- Explore the nexus of climate and care economy within policy and research.
These strategic pathways have been presented to the board and an action plan developed to guide its implementation
Countries in focus
Working with partners Resource Integration Center and Young Power in Social Action, we carried out an assessment of the impact of climate change consequences, risks and vulnerability from natural disasters on refugees in the Rohingya camps, specifically older people and people with disability. We used the results to guide our activity providing support to help communities cope with the effects of climate change and build their resilience. Specifically, we provided training on disaster risk reduction, risk mitigation techniques, precautionary measures to take to reduce loss and damage etc.
In designing the project, HelpAge and partners worked closely with district and sub-district disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation teams.
Thanks to our awareness-raising work, the Vietnam Disaster Management Agency – the national government agency in charge of disaster risk reduction (DRR), joined us to organise training on older people’s inclusion in Community-Based Disaster Risk Management. One significant achievement is that for the first time the Agency developed a communications manual on natural disaster prevention to be used by local Associations of the Elderly, with input from HelpAge. As a result of our advocacy efforts with network members in Vietnam, 40 out of 63 provinces now have a partnership between the government agency in charge of DRR and the provincial Association of the Elderly to promote inclusion of older people in response to climate change impacts.
Case study: “Having water so close by is a dream”
Reina Epiayu, 84, belongs to the Mapashirra community, one of the Wayuu indigenous desert communities of La Guajira in northern Colombia. The Colombian Caribbean coast is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events associated with climate change, and experienced torrential rain and flooding in 2022. This contaminated the water reservoirs, creating a lack of safe drinking water, and severely damaged the crops resulting in high food insecurity for the Wayuu community.
HelpAge worked with Secretariado de Pastoral Social Riohacha and Cadena Colombia to set up a humanitarian response to the crisis. The Wayuu are matriarchal societies, where older women hold primary power positions and are decision-makers with traditional and ancestral wisdom. The response therefore focused on setting up a dialogue with the older people of the indigenous communities in order to learn from their deep understanding of local climate patterns and the best measures for adaptation. Older people were nominated as leaders of water committees to manage the water systems and ensure knowledge would be transferred to younger generations.
Abandoned or damaged water systems were repaired, operational and technical capacities were strengthened, and robust intergenerational water committees now ensure constant maintenance and smooth functioning of the water systems.
Two hundred people from the Wayuu communities now actively manage the water systems, which provide water to approximately 1,000 people living in indigenous communities nearby. Reina Epiayu says the well has given hope to her community, and that the children are much happier. Turning on the faucet and having clean water just a few metres from her house is a luxury she has never had before.
Critical debates around #ShiftingThePower and the decolonisation of aid have sparked essential discussions about the role of INGOs. At HelpAge, we understand the importance of ensuring that all our interventions are truly locally-led: designed, led and implemented by national or local stakeholders. With this objective in mind, our 10-year Strategy 2030 places locally-led development at its heart.
To accomplish this goal, we are adopting a more agile approach, actively expanding our networks and partnerships and placing them front and centre. This means adapting our own role to one of three things:
These three roles form the foundations of our changing approach. They are underpinned by a process of reflection and transformation of our organisational systems and processes.
In 2022/23, this included:
- Participation in localisation initiatives on re-imagining the non-profit sector – for example with the International Civil Society Centre, Stopping at Success, and Re-Imagining INGOs.
- Development of Design Principles to guide our global initiatives and improve our strategic positioning. They relate to how we partner and collaborate with others, how we make use of and leverage our international reach and the global network, and how we seek to complement other change makers by bringing a distinct value-add to the table.
- Continuous improvement to our planning and reporting systems, developing a streamlined organisational results framework called Digital MEAL System to curate all monitoring and evaluation data. This will allow the organisation to better capture, report and analyse our outcomes and impact.
- Commitment to a strategic shift towards building an inclusive, globally diverse workforce. Thanks to our global working model, we currently have staff working remotely in all corners of the world, from Australia to Finland, and from Colombia to India and Thailand. We will strive to ensure true diversity in our staff and monitor their sense of inclusion and well-being.
- Spotlight on diversity and inclusion:
A high ranking for our commitment to achieving gender equality
This year, HelpAge ranked fourth out of a group of 73 not-for-profit organisations in the FAIR SHARE Index, which measures the number of women in leadership roles across the sector.
This ranking reflects our commitment to achieving gender equity across the organisation, including in leadership roles. Currently, 60 per cent of HelpAge staff are women and 59 per cent of leadership positions
are occupied by women, of which 39 per cent are BIWOC (Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour).
The global network
The HelpAge global network is the cornerstone of all our efforts at HelpAge, and plays a pivotal role in all our initiatives. Collaborating with the network members through partnerships and support is the driving force behind our capacity to deliver programmes and activities. It also empowers us to champion the cause of older people through advocacy and campaigns.
The network expanded further last year, with 10 new members stepping forward to support our mission of promoting the well-being and inclusion of older people and creating a fairer and equal world for them.
We were also pleased to welcome our first network members from Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala into the global alliance, extending our reach to 93 countries around the world.
The support of our funders is essential for our efforts in shaping a better world for older people. We extend our gratitude to each of them for their generosity, support, and dedication to our vision of a world where everyone can lead dignified, healthy and secure lives, whatever their age.
With special thanks to our supporting members: Age International, HelpAge Canada, HelpAge Deutschland, HelpAge Korea and HelpAge USA.