Ageing and disability

According to WHO and the World Bank, more than 1 billion people in the world live with some form of disability, and many of those categorised as having a disability are also older people. This prevalence estimate is predicted to increase primarily due to ageing populations and the higher risk of disability in older people, as well as the global increase in chronic health conditions. The non-communicable diseases (NCDs) most commonly associated with disabilities also most commonly affect older people, such as arthritis, heart disease, dementia, hearing disorders, stroke and back pain.

Older people, people with disabilities and older people with disabilities make invaluable contributions to society; however, these groups are often excluded from mainstream development and humanitarian initiatives. Older people with disabilities often encounter barriers in the provision of supports and services, such as stigma, inaccessible environments, inadequate home support services and lack of family support.

Disabled people’s organisations and older people’s organisations should work together to promote the inclusion of older people with disabilities in all aspects of society to attain quality of life and equal access. It is essential that they are included as active participants in development and poverty alleviation programmes, as well as humanitarian responses. This is supported by articles 3, 11, 19, 25, 26, 28, 29 and 30 of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The resources in this key list include studies, guides, manuals and websites about ageing and disability in development and humanitarian contexts for people with disabilities, practitioners, communities, and family members. It was compiled and reviewed in partnership with HelpAge International. We welcome your suggestions: please send comments or suggested additions to

HelpAge International

Selected resources

Age-friendly primary health care centres toolkit


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This toolkit aims to improve the primary health care response for older persons. The information presented assists health care workers in the diagnosis and management of chronic diseases and the four main issues of memory loss, urinary incontinence, depression and falls/immobility that often impact people as they age. The toolkit contains a number of instruments that can be used by primary health care workers to assess and address older persons' health, such as evaluation forms, slides, figures, graphs, diagrams, scale tables, country guidelines, exam sheets, screening tools, cards, and checklists
Note: The link provided also contains Annex 1: Trainers guide for normal ageing and communication, a Normal Ageing power point presentation and Communication with older people power point presentation

Ageing and disability in humanitarian response : a resource book of inclusive practices

QURESHI, Waqas Ashfaq
June 2011

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This report reviews the contributions of international NGOs, NGOs, Disabled People Organisations and other stakeholders in the disability and ageing sector. Their responses to mainstreaming disability and/or ageing issues in humanitarian response in Pakistan are presented, and general recommendations are provided. This report would be useful to those who work with disabled and older people in disaster situations

An untapped resource : how supporting older people with social protection will help achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs)

SLEAP, Bridget
WALKER, Astrid

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This report finds that interventions aimed at achieving the MDGs must also respond to the intergenerational nature of poverty and to rapid population ageing. It asserts that it is essential to adopt a rights-based approach because this will ensure the needs of the poorest and most marginalised groups are met

Disability, equality and human rights : a training manual for development and humanitarian organisations

HARRIS, Alison

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This manual is based on Oxfam's experience working with local disabled people's organisations before, during and after the recent crisis in Kosovo. Case studies from West Africa and South and East Asia also show how the principles and training can be translated to a wide range of political and social contexts. It suggests practical materials useful for trainers working in geographically isolated areas without access to sophisticated equipment. Most of the activities and exercises can be adapted for use in groups of people with a wide range of impairments and educational levels. The text is written in clear and simple language

Disabled peoples international : concept paper on the inclusion of seniors with disabilities in policy and practice on ageing


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The paper argues that some governmental and non-governmental organizations tend to look at disability and age separately. The paper suggests the common issues for both disabled and older aged people include the need for affordable, accessible housing; affordable, accessible and flexible transportation; as well as a wide range of home support services. The paper calls for greater focus on the overlapping needs of older aged and disabled people so policies meet support needs more closely

Global age-friendly cities : a guide


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Informed by WHO's approach to active ageing, the purpose of this guide is to engage cities to become more age-friendly so as to tap the potential that older people represent for humanity. An age-friendly city encourages active ageing by optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life of older people. Working with groups on 33 cities in all WHO regions, WHO asked older people in focus groups to describe the advantages and barriers they experience in 8 areas of city living. The results from these led to the development of a set of age-friendly city checklists

Guidance on including older people in emergency shelter programmes


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Given the lack of attention to older people in shelter programmes, these guidelines provide the following five key action points for including older people in shelter programmes: understand the needs and capacities of older people; ensure that older people participate and are represented; target vulnerable older people; incorporate age-friendly in both household and community shelters; and promote coordination, cooperation and sharing. Clear information is provided for each action point action supported by case studies, and the recommendations provide a framework for the different phases of a shelter programme (temporary, transitional and permanent). This resource is useful for people interested in including older people in emergency shelter programmes

Old age, disability and mental health : data issues for a post-2015 framework

May 2013

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"This Background Note focuses on inequalities associated with old age, disability and mental health. It argues that these should be considered salient sources of group-based difference, given the numbers of people affected, their marginalisation and vulnerability, and their relative neglect in international agreements to date. This note identifies a lack of data as a particular concern, but one that can be addressed through revisions to standard household surveys. To this end, the paper discusses the available data and their limitations, constraints to better data collection and efforts needed to adjust key international survey instruments -the World Bank’s Core Welfare Indicator Questionnaire (CWIQ) and Living Standards and Measurement Survey (LSMS), Macro International’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS)- to collect reliable data on these issues. It sets out technical adjustments that would enable these surveys to broaden their coverage, collect richer information and improve their identification of these three groups. It concludes by commenting on how measures to address the inequalities that affect these groups could be incorporated within a new post-2015 framework agreement"
ODI Background note

Older people in emergencies : considerations for action and policy development


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This analysis highlights factors that particularly affect older people in emergencies, especially health-related concerns. It also proposes a strategy to raise awareness about older people in emergencies, and recommends policies and practices to address these considerations. It sets out objectives for the three phases of an emergency response: the preparedness phase; the emergency response and operations phase; and the recovery and transition phase

Older persons in emergencies : an active ageing perspective


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This report considers the contribution that older people can make during natural or conflict-related emergencies and in reconstruction phases. It describes the converging trends of rapid growth of the population over 60 years of age and of health emergencies, and outlines the resulting challenges. It then outlines the basic elements of emergency planning, drawing on case studies to identify the impacts of these situations on older people; it looks at the WHO Active Ageing policy framework; and offers a policy response

Protecting and assisting older people in emergencies

December 2005

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The rapid increase in the older population worldwide poses new challenges, particularly in resource poor countries and in emergency settings. Older people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disaster or conflict and less able to adapt to sudden disruptions in their lives. They can also make crucial contributions to their communities, caring for orphans, providing inter-generational support, helping resolve conflicts, offering their knowledge on alternative and traditional healing practices. This document looks in some detail at both the needs and strengths of the elderly in emergencies and calls for greater promotion of the rights of older people, their inclusion in all stages of humanitarian interventions, mainstreaming and allocation of adequate resources for older people's protection

The protection of older persons and persons with disabilities

June 2007

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"This paper examines the challenges which older persons and persons with disabilities face in accessing protection, including assistance, in situations of displacement. It reviews current policies on the protection of displaced older persons and those with disabilities; highlights the main protection challenges faced by these individuals; and outlines efforts made by UNHCR and partners to respond to these challenges. Finally, it summarizes the key areas for attention and follow-up in the next three years to improve its performance in providing protection and support to older persons and persons with disabilities"

World alzheimer report 2010 : the global economic impact of dementia

WIMO, Anders
PRINCE, Martin

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This report provides a global picture of the economic impact of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. "The report includes an estimate of the worldwide cost of dementia, including direct medical costs, direct non-medical costs and costs of informal (family) care. The estimates are broken down by world region and include analysis of the differences between low and high income countries. The report also contains important policy recommendations and makes clear to key decision-makers that doing nothing is not an option"

Ageways 64 : ageing and disability

January 2004

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"This issue highlights the way that society discriminates against people who are old and disabled (focusing mainly on physical disabilities; issue 65 will look at mental health). It suggests how older and disabled people’s organisations can work together to raise awareness of the needs, rights and potential of disabled older people, and it looks at some practical ways to improve the opportunities for disabled older people to participate in society"
Ageways Issue 64

Contribution of chronic diseases to disability in elderly people in countries with low and middle incomes : a 10/66 dementia research group population-based survey

SOUSA, Renata M
et al
November 2009

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This article assesses "the contribution of physical, mental, and cognitive chronic diseases to disability, and the extent to which sociodemographic and health characteristics account for geographical variation in disability." Using cross sectional surveys of people aged over 65 in seven low and middle income countries, the findings highlight specific associations of chronic diseases to disability and overall that dementia, not blindness, is overwhelmingly the most important independent contributor to disability for elderly people in low and middle income countries. This resource is useful to people interested in the contribution of chronic diseases to disability in elderly people
The Lancet, Vol 374, Issue 97041
To access this article, users need to register (free) online

Institutional care for older people in developing countries : the case of Buenos Aires, Argentina


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"This paper examines the quality of care provided by old age homes in developing countries. It draws attention to the growing demand for such services and the emergence of a largely unregulated private sector. The paper reviews the findings of a survey of 101 private old age homes conducted in Buenos Aires, Argentina during 2004 and 2005. This reveals that the quality of care leaves much to be desired, and that the rights, autonomy and dignity of older people are often neglected. Particular issues of concern are the repressive managerial structures (including the use of restraints and medication), questionable processes of admission, and limited support for dependent residents. The paper calls for long term care to be given a higher policy profile in developing countries than is currently the case"
Journal of Population Ageing, Vol 2, No 1-2

10/66 Dementia Research Group


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The 10/66 Dementia Research Group is a collective of researchers carrying out population-based research into dementia, non-communicable diseases and ageing in low and middle income countries. This website features general information about the group, highlights their research and policy work, and provides details about their participants. Additional sections are given for links to their newsletter, other news items and registration. This website is useful to anyone interested in population-based research into dementia, non-communicable diseases and ageing in low and middle income countries

Aging and life course


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This WHO website presents information about the ageing of populations around the world. It highlights global programmes and networks, as well as challenges, opportunities and initiatives for developed and developing countries. It also contains links to specific topics and programmes, useful factsheets, publications and related organizations. This resource is useful for people interested in ageing and the life course


There is a long time human rights violation and mental torture given to us of women of one family and a sabotage has been made by the hasty investors with the help of a our Psychiatrist counsel and we are living in crisis and facing life threats and dangers and a continued perpetration faced against our properties and we are not allowed to live in peace. I want to expose the entire issue in the journal and for want of speedy justice. Do I find place with my story in your publications?

We are five members of one family the one our beloved mother died in July, 2012 and our sufferings and perpetration on us is since 35 years and not yet ended till date because of lack of one sound legislative Law protecting the interest and civil property rights of mental health survivors especially the women. We lost that share of property of our younger sister in an unlawful way by the hasty investors, poor quality of life and decision making capacity of my sisters and brother, uncontrolled family quarrels and sabotages and others. Even the neibhourhood residents and the unknown real estate brokers to known family members and the long term tenants who were enjoying our properties for a peanut rents including the hasty investors are still attacking us and we are living in life danger and damages to our properties. The perpetrators have found a safe space under the law and express their intelligence by corruption and controlling the local judicial ends with the help of their legal counsels. Several times we approached the legal help where our case is treated with mere civil nature and the perpetrators are protected under law and we stand with out any justice behind facing the continued perpetration and torture on us and our properties. It is since 2001 we are facing the torture and when it will end for our justice?

There is a continued attempts on us by various groups of persons for want of grabbing our family property which is the only support for our livelihood and Psychiatry medical treatment and survival where the hasty investors at our conditons of aggrevated mental illness and hospiralised treatment with the help of our spouses bought that share of property share of our younger sister who is a victim of head and brain injury and followed by Psychiatry disabilities and for the reasons of my oral objection over the deal I am facing a legal issue since 2001 to till date and facing civil suit where they deleberately occupaid my property premises and closed the common path way and denied access to the other parts of my property. The civil suit has not been taken for any trial since 2006 and which is postponed or deliberately delayed with the interference of the hasty investor on their way to protect their interest in the said property where the sale is null and void as the court order is a must before making any sale of the property of a mental health survivor which has not been followed by them. The women especially mental health survivors and their properties are vulnerable and many a times the properties are grabbed by such hasty investors with the help of their same family members against fictitious loand, liablities and chronic debts at their vulnerable conditions of mental health or mental illness the sabotage is made on the same and the persons living with one or more or multiple mental health issues and disabilities.