It's official: many women become invisible after 49

Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:19pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In a world of data-driven policies, there is one group in society that barely registers and is at risk of missing out on crucial resources and services, according to researchers - older women.

Much international data, including metrics on health, employment, assets and domestic violence, appears to back up the anecdotal view that women become invisible in middle age. The data sets start at the age of 15 and stop abruptly at 49.

Experts said the limited age framework stems from a focus on women of reproductive age, assumptions about the limited economic role of older women and age discrimination that overlooks sexuality and violence in older women's lives.

Advocacy groups lobbying for wider data collection say only slow and limited progress is being made in surveys to track the status of older people, both women and men.

"The fact that the world is aging, and aging rapidly, is something we can no longer afford to ignore," Cailin Crockett, special assistant for gender policy and elder rights at the U.S. Department of Health, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Already there are more than 850 million people globally over the age of 60, a number projected to swell to 1 billion in the next 10 years and 2 billion by 2050 - rising to 22 percent of the world population, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Women, who tend to live longer than men, will represent the majority of them. In 2050, the United Nations projects that globally there will be 85 men per 100 women over the age of 60 and 61 men per 100 women over the age of 80.

Eighty percent of older people in 2050 will live in developing nations where a lack of data could hamper the creation of policies not only to assist them but to help tap into the social and economic contributions they can make.   Continued...