Experts from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) say health systems in the Americas are not adequately responding to the needs of older adults and must be adapted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PAHO’s assessment comes as the world celebrates International Day of Older Persons today.
The organisation is calling for comprehensive, person-centred, integrated care and primary health services that are responsive to older people’s needs.
“How each individual older person might be affected by COVID-19, or any other disease, depends on their overall physical and mental health, so care and treatment should always take this into consideration,” PAHO stated.
Older person are far more likely to experience severe disease following infection, according to PAHO, with those over 80 years old dying at five times the average rate.
A United Nations Report tilted “The Impact of COVID-19 on Older Persons” suggests that this may be due to underlying conditions, which effect 66 percent of those aged 70 and over.
This is also the case in the Americas, where most COVID deaths occur in those aged 70 and over, followed by people between the ages of 60-69 years.
While older persons receiving long term care have been hardest hit, accounting for 40-80 percent of COVID-19 deaths worldwide, in the Americas where the care of older adults is more likely to take place in the home, physical distancing is a particular challenge.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has really emphasized the needs and vulnerabilities that older persons have when it comes to their right to health,” said Carissa Etienne, PAHO/WHO Director.
“Too often, we are not hearing their voices and perspectives when it comes to their care. Older people have the same right to care as anyone else. No lives are more valuable than others.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, up to 50% of older populations in some low- and middle-income countries lacked access to some essential health services.
The year 2020 marks the start of the Decade of Healthy Aging, which highlights the need for to tackle ageism.