Older women are often the forgotten heroes of the family unit, yet they play vital social and economic roles. They are integral to improved family health at all life stages and with nearly a quarter of women in the world aged over 50, action is required to recognise their roles and rights.
Thanks to sponsorship from DFAT, and an inspiring partnership between The Fred Hollows Foundation, HelpAge International and Burnet Institute, this issue was tackled head on as part of the 4th Global Women Deliver conference hosted in Copenhagen in May.
The key objective of the partner event - 'Older Women Deliver Too – A Life-Course Approach to Women's and Children's Health' - was to form a global partnership to promote the rights, needs and contributions of older women.
Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls and Burnet Institute Patron, provided a statement which was read to open the event. Panel presenters highlighted a range of projects which focus on older women, including the "Better Vision, Healthy Ageing Program" – a collaboration between government and civil society partners, in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The program's goal is to improve the health, vision and quality of life for elders in the region. It is trialing an innovative model of healthy and active ageing that includes health promotion, blindness prevention and social participation through the platform of Elders' Clubs.
The Better Vision, Health Ageing Program is funded by The Fred Hollows Foundation and managed and supported by the Centre for International Health, Burnet Institute, in Melbourne.
One of the most common, yet treatable disabilities among older women is vision impairment. Global evidence shows that women are 1.5 times more likely to be affected by vision loss than men, and they are less likely to access cataract surgery or have spectacles.
Empowering older women and recognising their role in the family and the community is central to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.