Older age people and persons with disabilities make up a significant and growing proportion of the world's population, and a high proportion of both groups live in developing countries. For example, the accepted global estimate of persons with disabilities is one billion people, of whom one in five live in developing countries. By 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over will almost triple, reaching 2 billion (22 per cent of the world's population). Ageing is associated with a higher probability of living with a disability. The World Report on Disability estimates that more than 46 per cent of the world's population aged over 60 lives with a disability.

There is much overlap between the issues faced by older people and persons with disabilities. As people age they often find they become restricted in a number of areas: for example loss of mobility, or loss of sight or hearing. Both persons with disabilities and older people face barriers in accessing services such as employment and health services, including access to assistive devices. Both groups are also disproportionately susceptible to poverty and at risk of violence and abuse. Older persons with disabilities can experience dual discrimination on the grounds of age and disability.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) protects the rights of all persons with disabilities including older persons with disabilities. The UN also has a working group on ageing for the purpose of strengthening protection of the human rights of older people.

The intersection between disability and ageing has been an area of discussion for many years. Building on this literature, there is a small but growing body of resources at policy and practice level that address the intersection of ageing and disability in a range of contexts (e.g. humanitarian).

See also: Assistive Devices, Health, Livelihoods, Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Data collection to inform design and measurement.

Help-Age International (2011) A study of humanitarian financing for older people and people with disabilities, 2010–2011 (PDF 880 KB)

This study quantifies the funding provided by donors to meet the humanitarian needs of two of the most vulnerable groups: older people and persons with disabilities. The report found the number of projects and amount of funding for both groups remains extremely low. It highlights the significant disparity between the needs of these two vulnerable groups and the humanitarian assistance delivered to meet those needs. This report is useful for those working in humanitarian aid policy and practice wanting to learn more about disability inclusive humanitarian assistance.

Help Age International Resources page

This website provides a range of useful policy documents, reports and case studies focusing on issues facing older people in general. Some of these documents make reference to older persons with disabilities.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, ADD International, HelpAge International and Sightsavers (2013) Inequalities: Ageing and disability in the post 2015 development agenda (PDF 2.2 MB)

This short policy paper sets out key policy concerns for persons with disabilities and older people in future development frameworks. It addresses key areas such as secure livelihoods, quality healthcare and supportive environments. This is a useful document to inform policy and advocacy.

UNESCAP Ageing page

This website contains updates on the progress of older persons’ rights, policy reforms and a list of publications and resources. It is a useful website for general information on the issues facing older persons, such as poverty and inequality.

International Standards Organisation and International Electrotechnical Commission (2001) ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001 Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities (PDF 471 KB)

These guidelines may assist writers of relevant International Standards (including for incorporation into regulatory requirements) on how to take into account the needs of older people and persons with disabilities. (Please note these Guidelines are only available via purchase of an annual subscription from ISO. More information on ISO standards is provided under the ‘Guidelines and standards for accessibility’ subtheme.)

Disabled People's International (2011) Concept paper on the inclusion of seniors with disabilities in policy and practice on ageing (PDF 144 KB)

This short concept paper outlines key policy areas relevant to older persons with disabilities and links these to the UNCRPD. In particular it highlights the need for home support services, and measures to tackle stigma faced by older persons. It calls for a dual lens approach to ageing and disability for older persons with disabilities. It provides a useful explanation of the connection between ageing and disability that will assist policy and program staff.

Alzheimer’s Disease International, ADD International, HelpAge International and Sightsavers (2013) We can also make change (PDF 633 KB)

This report describes the experiences of older people and persons with disabilities in Bangladesh. It provides valuable testimony of the considerable equality and poverty challenges they face – in particular in securing livelihoods, accessing public services, living free from discrimination and in accessing justice. Whilst this paper focuses on Bangladesh, the research methodology and insights drawn from the research may be useful for policy and program staff in different country contexts.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list on ageing and disability (updated regularly)

This key list on ageing and disability includes links to reports, publications and other practical resources that focus on ageing and disability.

Qureshi, WA (ed) (2011) Ageing and disability in humanitarian response: A resource book of inclusive practices prepared for the Islamabad Ageing and Disability Task Force (PDF 4.3 MB)

This report includes a range of contributions on inclusive humanitarian responses from international NGOs, local NGOs, Disabled Peoples Organisations and other stakeholders in the disability and ageing sector. It includes case studies of organisations working on humanitarian responses for older people and persons with disabilities in Pakistan. This report illustrates inclusive practices in humanitarian responses. This practical grounding is useful to policy and program staff of international organisations.

There are no case studies available

Washington Group on Disability Statistics technical presentation

Jennifer H. Madans Ph.D., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Mitchell Loeb,
Health Scientist, NCHS from the secretariat of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics delivered a technical session
on how to use the Washington Group questions in monitoring data systems and how to disaggregate data by disability
followed by a question and answer session at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, 30 April 2015. The presentation
was organised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Presentation from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics
An elderly lady from Nepal who is blind stands in front of an eye chart. She is holding a walking stick.

Photo: Eleanor Farmer, 2011

Ayushi* (80yrs) is bilaterally blind. After hearing on the radio about a screening camp for cataracts, she is seeking treatment. Ageing is the most common cause of cataracts. (*pseudonym used) Copyright: CBM/ Farmer.