World Health Day

Good health adds life to years - photo gallery

1 March 2012

Ageing and health is the theme of this year's World Health Day. The slogan of the day is "Good health adds life to years".

Over the past century life expectancy has increased dramatically and the world will soon have more older people than children. Older men and women can lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities. This photo gallery, with images from around the world, challenges current stereotypes older people have to grapple with.

Helmut Wirz discovered a passion for bungee-jumping at the age of 75.
Karsten Thormaehlen

Helmut Wirz, retired pharmacist

Jumping head first from high altitudes is 87-year old Helmut Wirz's passion. The former pharmacist discovered bungee-jumping at the age of 75. "When I’m standing up there,
I feel completely calm“, he says, despite the fact that he is only secured by a rubber - band fixed to his legs. Helmut held the record as the oldest bungee jumper in the world for many years and is not planning to switch to playing chess or bowling any time soon.



Mirta Nordet dances several times a month to keep healthy.
Karsten Thormaehlen

Mirtha Nordet, retired ophthalmologist

Mirtha Nordet and her teenage grandson Damian are very close. When his 69-year-old grandmother offered to teach him his first salsa steps, Damian immediately said yes.
"I want my grandchildren to learn as much as possible about the culture and traditions of my home country Cuba," says the retired ophthalmologist, who goes dancing several times a month. "Salsa is a kind of liberation for me. It gives me energy and I stop thinking," she enthuses. Despite some recent back problems, Mirtha hopes to go on dancing long into the future.



Barton and Namale, with their grandson
HelpAge International/Antonio Olmos

Barton, 76, brickmaker

Barton and Namale find it hard to make ends meet. The couple looks after their oldest son, who is too sick to work, as well as his two small children. There is no way 76-year-old Barton can even dream of retiring. He used to run a chicken business, but has now turned to making and selling bricks. "Rising food prices have affected us all. Before, we used to be able to afford to eat plantains but now all we have is maize meal," the old man sighs. "If I could just get another loan or a pension, I would start the chicken business again, and hire someone to help me."



Being able to walk long distances is necessary for Maximiliana to continue to earn a living as a shepherd.
HelpAge International/Antonio Olmos

Maximiliana, 65, shepherd

Maximiliana has been herding sheep and goats since she was a small child. But much has changed in the past 60 years. When she was young, grass was plentiful. Now she has to walk 15 kilometers across the parched pastures of the high Peruvian Andes to find enough grazing for her animals. Maximiliana and her husband recently joined a senior citizens' club where they help to work communal fields. This supplements their diet and income. "I still love walking in the mountains with the animals", 65-year old Maximiliana says, "but I’ll need to find some other way to earn money because I won’t be able to keep doing this forever."



Older people can prove very resilient following natural hazards such as earthquakes.
WHO/T. Halvari

Older people in emergency situations

Emergency situations are increasing worldwide and older people are one of the most seriously affected groups. The elderly may be particularly vulnerable when security breaks down, and also to natural hazards such as floods, drought, and earthquakes. Older people can often, however, prove very resilient. Their knowledge of their community, experience from past events, and the position of respect they often command within families and communities make them valuable resources that can be drawn upon. It is important for those developing health care policies and guidelines to consider older people's needs and involve older people in both planning and implementing services in an emergency.



China is one of the most rapidly ageing countries in Asia
HelpAge International/Wang Jing

Older people in cities

Population ageing and urbanization are two global trends that pose major challenges to governments. As cities grow, the proportion of residents aged 60 years and over is increasing. China is one of the most rapidly ageing countries in Asia. According to the 2010 census, almost 50% of the Chinese population lives in urban areas. An ageing society in which more people suffer from chronic disease and disability means that a reduced workforce has to look after more pensioners and pay for soaring health care costs. The Government has started to tackle the problems by implementing chronic-disease prevention programmes at the national level and by establishing long-term care delivery systems for the elderly.

City authorities are encouraged to adapt their structures and services such that they are accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs and capacities. In China, the China National Committee on Ageing is establishing a programme to make Chinese cities more age-friendly. Pilot sites include Beijing, Qiqihar and Shanghai.

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