Opening remarks by Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Meeting on Ageing and Health in the Region

Manila, Philippines
9 July 2013

Honourable guests, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen:

Good morning, and welcome to this meeting on Ageing and Health in the Western Pacific Region.

I have three important messages on ageing.

First, population ageing is actually good news.

Second, the window of time for action is short, so we must act now.

And third, we already know much about what we need to do.

Let me explain the first message — population ageing is actually good news.

People now live longer than ever before. They live longer because of the great strides we have made in preventing diseases and promoting health.

Of course, it's not all good news. Population ageing presents challenges for society. More resources may need to be spent on health and welfare.

But if the process is managed properly, older people will continue to be a vital and valuable resource – especially in our Region, where we have a tradition of honouring the wisdom and experience of our elders.

My second message is that the window of time for action is short— so we must act now.

The modern world is ageing at an unprecedented rate. The proportion of the population over 60 is growing faster than any other age group.

In fact, we have the most “silver” country in the world in our Region — Japan.

But we also have countries where most of the people are young and the population ageing process will be faster — such as Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

These countries may double the share of people aged 60 or older within one generation.

They will have much less time to develop appropriate policies and actions.

But just like wealthier countries, they will need to ensure that their older people are living healthier lives.

This brings me to the third message: We already know much about what we need to do.

We know that there are no quick fixes or magic bullets.

I am glad to see a growing awareness and willingness by governments and societies to take action to help people live longer and healthier.

WHO has developed a Regional Framework for Action on Ageing and Health that you will discuss extensively during this meeting.

The framework lays out four priority areas and suggested actions. We appreciate your enthusiastic input here to help guide future action in the Region.

The framework will be presented to the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific at its sixty-fourth session in Manila in October.

Moving forward will require political commitment, advocacy and strengthened partnerships.

Ageing and health cannot be tackled by one institution or one team. It requires contributions from governments, nongovernmental partners and older people themselves.

WHO stands ready to collaborate with our Member States to guide policy changes and actions designed to help meet the needs of their populations as they age.

We take our role very seriously as the world's leading health authority. Ageing and health is one more example of how we work with Member States, to help transform their health priorities into realities for their people.

Thank you.