Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Older women

Men and women experience old age differently. Older women tend to have stronger social networks than men and there is evidence that mothers are more likely than fathers to receive material and emotional support from their adult children.15 Older women are also more likely than older men to be caregivers of children or sick relatives, particularly in families affected by migration or illness. 
Men’s greater economic role means that loss of earning power can have negative consequences for their roles in society after they have retired. Traditional roles in the household can result in older men becoming more isolated once they retire from their jobs. 

Both older men and older women may face age discrimination. However, older women also face the cumulative effects of gender discrimination throughout their lives, including less access to education and health services, lower earning capacity and limited access to rights to land ownership, contributing to their vulnerability in older age. 

A combination of age and sex discrimination also puts older women at increased risk of violence and abuse. Despite significant progress in the development of international legal norms, standards and policies, data on elder abuse of women are very limited. In general, a lack of key indicators and data disaggregated by age and sex is a barrier to improving programmes and designing laws and policies that respond effectively to the different situations of older women and men.

Currently, in many countries, older women have lower levels of education than older men because as girls they were denied the opportunity to go to school or dropped out before completing their education. In developing countries, an average of 58 per cent of women aged 65 or over are illiterate, compared with 34 per cent of men in the same age group. Lower educational levels, particularly in older women, seriously limit the ability of older persons to obtain information, access services or take part in social, economic or political activities. For example, one study in Latin America and the Caribbean found that low literacy was associated with low levels of participation in cancer screening.

 Given the fact that the level of education of the current generation is higher than the previous ones, future generations of older persons are expected to be increasingly better educated, a very positive trend that will counterbalance the challenges created by a rapid increase in the aged populations. However, most developing countries, today and in the near future, will have to deal with a high proportion of illiterate older persons, particularly women. Improving literacy in the current generation of older women is an essential policy component, not only for their own well-being but also to enable them to better support the education of younger generations. There is an urgent need to incorporate older women’s and men’s health issues into health policies. Although, on average, women live longer than men, they are also likely to live more years in ill health.

Multiple pregnancies and inadequate support in childbirth, as well as inequalities earlier in life, such as poor access to health care, and lower educational and income levels, contribute to health problems in older age. Older women also face specific age-related health issues. Increases in life expectancy have led to more women living beyond the menopause, increasing the risk of hormone-related conditions such as osteoporosis which is associated with higher risk of fractures in older women. The loss of a spouse can also make women more vulnerable. Older women are more likely to be widowed than older men and are less likely to remarry than men who are widowed. As the status of women in many societies is linked to the status of their husbands, widows and unmarried older women can become particularly vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion. While the emphasis in incorporating gender concerns into policies and programmes related to ageing is typically on the vulnerabilities of older women, a more balanced perspective that recognizes gender as a potential marker of vulnerability for various aspects of well-being is needed to address both male and female disadvantages.

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