Active Ageing Index - benefits and opportunities for Azerbaijan

Baku, December 6, Lachin Sultanova, AZERTAC

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population of Azerbaijan has initiated the implementation of the project "Building society for all ages: promoting well-being of the elderly persons in Azerbaijan through active ageing" in close partnership with the State Statistical Committee, State Agency for Public Service and Social Innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Agency for Sustainable and Operational Social Security (DOST). One of the major activities of this project, funded by the Government of Azerbaijan, is development of an Active Ageing Index to assess and measure the potential of older people for active and healthy ageing. The international expert on active ageing matters Asghar Zaidi, who is visiting Baku for the purposes of developing the Active Ageing Index, responded to questions from AZERTAC’s correspondent about the project.

Dear Mr. Zaidi, can you tell us about the purpose of your visit to Azerbaijan and the meetings you are going to have?

-The purpose of my visit to your beautiful country is related with the development of an Active Ageing Index for Azerbaijan within the framework of the project “Building society for all ages: promoting wellbeing of the elderly persons in Azerbaijan through active ageing” implemented jointly by the UNFPA and the Government of Azerbaijan. During our visit, we will have meetings with the colleagues from the UNFPA country office in Azerbaijan, government officials of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population and State Statistics Committee to discuss the development of the Active Ageing index for your country. I would like to state that we are very pleased to cooperate with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population and State Statistics Committee for this particular assignment.

Since the active ageing index is a new concept for our society, can you tell us about why this index matters and its role in measuring the untapped potential of the elderly population for healthy and active ageing?

-Active Ageing Index is a tool to measure the untapped potential of older people for active and healthy ageing across the countries. It measures the level to which older people live independent lives, participate in paid employment and social activities, and their capacity to age actively. So far, we have been working on the implementation of the active ageing index in a number of countries in Europe and Southeast Asia, and I would like to stress that Azerbaijan is one of the few countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region that have expressed commitment to development of the Active Ageing Index. The index measures both the current realities and the remaining potential for active ageing in a given population, along four dimensions: employment; participation in society; independent, healthy and secure living; and capacity and enabling environment for active ageing. As such, it not only illustrates the current situation but also helps to highlight the areas where future gains can be made. This index provides an overview of the level of participation of the elderly in the social life as a whole – more healthy and active elderlies are, higher their contribution to society will be. Another advantage that the AAI offers is the development of a composite index that enables countries to more easily identify policy priorities, progress and challenges, as well as to break this down by substantive areas. The use of this index is also important for countries in terms of comparing the population’s ageing situation with other countries. Such comparisons enable to reveal country’s positions being higher or lower than other countries in a particular area (e.g. healthy ageing, social inclusivity etc.) and the policies or programs that are or should be used to achieve or maintain those high positions. In short, the active ageing index brings to light the value of the contribution (paid or voluntary) by older population to the well-being of society. To what extent older citizens are involved in social activities, are they able to maintain their financial independence, are they still able to care for their family members – these are some of the criteria represented by the active ageing index. In certain cases, our analyses show that countries may experience an untapped potential of older citizens, which can be utilized for the sake of the well-being of society, and this provides an important diagnostic evidence with respect to improvement of the active ageing process in those countries.

What is the international experience on Active Ageing Index and how can Azerbaijan benefit from it?

-So far, active ageing index has been developed and applied for 28 countries in the EU and 3 other non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland). Later, we started using this index in the Asian region. Thus, the first active ageing index in Asia was introduced in China, then in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand. In general, we can say that active ageing indexes are currently available in 35 countries around the world, and it will be possible to shape and make this a global index in the future. It is also important to note that in addition to active ageing, the concept of healthy ageing is being promoted in the world now, and it would not be expedient to separate these two concepts. The active ageing index, in its turn, makes up a unity with the concept of healthy ageing. Countries with an active ageing index can compare their appropriate indicators with those of other countries at the international level to determine what specific areas need improvement and what are the best practices to learn from.

I can also say that the AAI serves well as an analytical or diagnostic tool for a wide range of stakeholders (policymakers, researchers, students, businesses). It would provide an opportunity for a collaboration between European countries and Azerbaijan through the sharing of best practices and policy learning, and by identifying innovative social policy practices and contexts through comparative analysis.

How does this work align with the priorities of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and the commitments set out in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda under the slogan “Leave no one behind”?

-Firstly, I would like to answer your question starting with 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We think this global agenda is very comprehensive and it made possible development of an international policy framework with clear objectives. At the same time, quantitative and qualitative indicators were identified and are being implemented to achieve these goals. From this perspective, we consider that the Sustainable Development Goals are fully compliant with population ageing issue. The slogan of 2030 Agenda “Leave no one behind” also confirms that the work done on daily basis within this agenda opens up broad opportunities to contribute to the development of society through empowering of older people.

The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPA) adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing (WAA) held in April 2002 offers a bold new agenda for handling the issue of ageing in the 21st-century in order to address the key challenge of “building society for all ages”. It focuses on three priority areas: older persons and development; advancing health and well-being into old age; and ensuring enabling and supportive environments. Although many positive and significant progress has been made in the past almost 20 years since the adoption of the Madrid Program, we believe that more work needs to be done to achieve its goals. For this reason, it may be worthwhile to review this international framework again on the threshold of the 20th anniversary of the Madrid program, and particularly in the context of implementation of 2030 Global Sustainable Development Agenda.


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