Older age people and persons with disabilities make up a significant and growing proportion of the world's population, and a high proportion of both groups live in developing countries. For example, the accepted global estimate of persons with disabilities is one billion people, of whom one in five live in developing countries. By 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over will almost triple, reaching 2 billion (22 per cent of the world's population). Ageing is associated with a higher probability of living with a disability. The World Report on Disability estimates that more than 46 per cent of the world's population aged over 60 lives with a disability.

There is much overlap between the issues faced by older people and persons with disabilities. As people age they often find they become restricted in a number of areas: for example loss of mobility, or loss of sight or hearing. Both persons with disabilities and older people face barriers in accessing services such as employment and health services, including access to assistive devices. Both groups are also disproportionately susceptible to poverty and at risk of violence and abuse. Older persons with disabilities can experience dual discrimination on the grounds of age and disability.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) protects the rights of all persons with disabilities including older persons with disabilities. The UN also has a working group on ageing for the purpose of strengthening protection of the human rights of older people.

The intersection between disability and ageing has been an area of discussion for many years. Building on this literature, there is a small but growing body of resources at policy and practice level that address the intersection of ageing and disability in a range of contexts (e.g. humanitarian).

See also: Assistive Devices, Health, Livelihoods, Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Data collection to inform design and measurement.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2007) Global age-friendly cities: a guide

This guide published by WHO describes the trends of population ageing and urbanisation. It collates information provided by older persons, caregivers and service providers about the advantages and barriers older people experience in relation to: outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, participation, inclusion, employment, communication and information, and community and health services. A set of age-friendly city checklists are also included.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2007) Checklist of Essential Features of Age-friendly Cities

This checklist published by WHO provides a tool for assessment and a map for charting progress, for those groups interested in making their city more age-friendly. For the checklist to be effective, WHO advocate that older people must be involved in assessment, planning changes, implementation and monitoring.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, ADD International, HelpAge International and Sightsavers (2013) We can also make change

This report describes the experiences of older people and persons with disabilities in Bangladesh. It provides valuable testimony of the considerable equality and poverty challenges they face – in particular in securing livelihoods, accessing public services, living free from discrimination and in accessing justice. Whilst this paper focuses on Bangladesh, the research methodology and insights drawn from the research may be useful for policy and program staff in different country contexts.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list on ageing and disability

This key list on ageing and disability includes links to reports, publications and other practical resources that focus on ageing and disability.

Qureshi, WA (ed) (2011) Ageing and disability in humanitarian response: A resource book of inclusive practices

This report includes a range of contributions on inclusive humanitarian responses from international NGOs, local NGOs, Disabled Peoples Organisations and other stakeholders in the disability and ageing sector. It includes case studies of organisations working on humanitarian responses for older people and persons with disabilities in Pakistan. This report illustrates inclusive practices in humanitarian responses. This practical grounding is useful to policy and program staff of international organisations.

UNESCAP (2017) ESCAP Ageing in the Asia and the Pacific: Overview

This policy brief contains an overview on the current trends in the process of ageing, through discussions on gender dimensions, accessibility to pensions and legislation on older persons. Key recommendations for policy-makers are also put forward for future reference.

International Standards Organisation and International Electrotechnical Commission (2001) ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001 Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities

These guidelines may assist writers of relevant International Standards (including for incorporation into regulatory requirements) on how to take into account the needs of older people and persons with disabilities. (Please note these Guidelines are only available via purchase of an annual subscription from ISO. More information on ISO standards is provided under the ‘Guidelines and standards for accessibility’ subtheme.)

Disabled People's International (2011) Concept paper on the inclusion of seniors with disabilities in policy and practice on ageing

This short concept paper outlines key policy areas relevant to older persons with disabilities and links these to the UNCRPD. In particular it highlights the need for home support services, and measures to tackle stigma faced by older persons. It calls for a dual lens approach to ageing and disability for older persons with disabilities. It provides a useful explanation of the connection between ageing and disability that will assist policy and program staff.

HelpAge International (2011) A study of humanitarian financing for older people and people with disabilities, 2010–2011

This study quantifies the funding provided by donors to meet the humanitarian needs of two of the most vulnerable groups: older people and persons with disabilities. The report found the number of projects and amount of funding for both groups remains extremely low. It highlights the significant disparity between the needs of these two vulnerable groups and the humanitarian assistance delivered to meet those needs. This report is useful for those working in humanitarian aid policy and practice wanting to learn more about disability inclusive humanitarian assistance.

Help Age International Resources page

This website provides a range of useful policy documents, reports and case studies focusing on issues facing older people in general. Some of these documents make reference to older persons with disabilities.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, ADD International, HelpAge International and Sightsavers (2013) Inequalities: Ageing and disability in the post 2015 development agenda

This short policy paper sets out key policy concerns for persons with disabilities and older people in future development frameworks. It addresses key areas such as secure livelihoods, quality healthcare and supportive environments. This is a useful document to inform policy and advocacy.

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An elderly lady from Nepal who is blind stands in front of an eye chart. She is holding a walking stick.

Photo: Eleanor Farmer, 2011

Ayushi* (80yrs) is bilaterally blind. After hearing on the radio about a screening camp for cataracts, she is seeking treatment. Ageing is the most common cause of cataracts. (*pseudonym used) Copyright: CBM/ Farmer.