International Frameworks Guide Government Policymaking and Resource Allocation Around Aging

National strategies, plans, and policies that support population aging are, together, helping to mainstream government action and guide the allocation of resources over time. The mainstreaming aging concept was first introduced by the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) in 2002. MIPAA is a nonbinding global agreement that succeeded the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing (1982), the world’s first international policy framework on aging. Although MIPAA builds upon the commitments of the Vienna Plan, MIPAA departs from its predecessor, recommending that countries integrate older people’s issues into national policymaking by linking “aging to other frameworks for social and economic development and human rights.” As a result, MIPAA continues to serve as a foundational norm-building framework that guides age-related policy around the world.

Mainstreaming Aging

Mainstreaming aging, similar to the movement to mainstream gender, is a multi-dimensional strategy or plan that seeks to incorporate the concerns and needs of older people across a wide range of policy areas, such as transportation infrastructure or emergency planning. Mainstreaming aging encourages a holistic, coherent, gender-responsive, and rights-based policy approach to aging, with a goal to achieve an equitable society for all age groups

Figure 1

Breakdown of Policies, Plan, and Laws on Older Persons Globally (2022)

While a growing number of countries have aging strategies, much more needs to be done to define specific plans or legally binding instruments that address population aging.

In 2016, the unanimous adoption of a five-year Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health (GSAP) by the World Health Assembly reinvigorated efforts to mainstream aging, urging Member States to adopt national plans to support older populations; a range of national and sub-jurisdictional plans have developed since. Following the expiration of GSAP in 2020, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing – a global initiative to catalyze actions that meaningfully improve the lives of older people through a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach. The Decade provides a ten-indicator framework to track country progress toward its goals, including the adoption of national plans on healthy aging.

According to the Decade of Healthy Ageing Baseline Report, in 2020, 105 United Nations Member States (54 percent) had reported a national plan that aligned with healthy aging principles. Based on publicly accessible documents, FP Analytics research found that, as of November 2023, 141 United Nations Member States—73 percent of total Member States—had developed at least one targeted national or subnational policy, plan, or law related to aging. In at least eight countries where no national law, policy, or plan was identified, one or more subnational jurisdictions have formulated plans of their own, while others have both national and subnational plans. These subnational plans exist at the state or provincial level in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others. FP Analytics prioritized plans publicly available in English, Spanish, and French. Additionally, widely used translation tools such as Google Translate and ChatGPT’s GPT-4, which both use AI to assist in contextual translation, were utilized to translate some non-English language plans, with the output cross-checked by FPA researchers where relevant. This report analyzes a variety of plans, policies, programs, strategies, and laws—the term “plan” has been used as a shorthand to describe this collection of policy documents.

Figure 2

141 Countries have National or Subnational Plans on Aging

While most countries have at least one plan or strategy,
55 countries have no plan or strategy that directly addresses aging.

Demographic and Development Trends Influencing Plan Advancement

Population aging—the increasing share of older persons, resulting from a decline in fertility rates and an increase in life expectancy—is a prevalent motivating factor driving the promulgation of action plans on aging. In 2022, people age 65 or older accounted for 10 percent of the global population, a share projected to increase to 16 percent in 2050, at which point there will be twice as many older adults as children under the age of five. The following trends are emerging within each World Health Organization (WHO) region, which are presented in descending order of percentage with national plans:

  • Southeast Asia: Across the six WHO regions, Southeast Asia, which accounts for over 25 percent of the global population, is the region with the highest percentage of strategies, policies, and laws on aging, with 10 of 11 countries, or 91 percent, possessing some sort of mainstreaming mechanism. By 2050, those 11 countries will account for more than 22 percent of the world’s population over age 65, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ World Population Ageing 2019 report.
  • The Americas: Eighty-nine percent of countries in the region have developed national plans—a total of 31 out of 35 countries. The Americas region is quickly aging, with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) projecting that one in six people will be over age 60 by 2030. However, the rate of aging is not consistent across the region. While Canada and the United States are rapidly becoming “super-aged” societies, Latin America and the Caribbean are aging at slower paces, with only 13 percent of Latin America’s population currently age 60 or older.
  • Europe: The WHO Europe region, which includes EU and non-EU countries in Europe and Central Asia, has the oldest regional population in the world and the longest history of developing policies and plans to support older persons. As of 2023, 87 percent of Europe’s 53 countries have adopted a national plan, for a total of 46 plans. By 2100, the population over age 80 in the EU is predicted to more than double, from 5.9 percent to 14.6 percent.
  • Eastern Mediterranean: The Eastern Mediterranean region is young, compared to the rest of the world, with approximately two-thirds of the region’s population under age 35. Governments in the region are increasingly identifying aging as policy priority: 14 of the region’s 20 countries, or 70 percent, have at least one strategy, policy, or law on aging.
  • Africa: The Africa region, which is the second-largest region at 47 countries, has the lowest percentage of national plans, with 24 countries (51 percent) possessing a plan on aging. Similar to the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa has a relatively young population: in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 70 percent of people are younger than 30.
  • Western Pacific: Although 34 percent of the world’s older people currently live in the Western Pacific region—a figure that is expected to double in the next three decades—only 16 of the region’s 27 countries, or around 59 percent, have developed a plan on aging. While globally there seems to be a correlation between demographic trends and development of plans on aging, this does not appear to be true for the Western Pacific region, but the number of has been growing in recent years.

Countries’ income levels are also associated with the development and adoption of plans around population aging. A comparison of the World Bank’s Income Classification for 2023 against countries with plans on aging reveals that countries with higher incomes are more likely to possess a national plan, policy, or strategy on aging. According to data collected for this report, 83 percent of higher-income countries, 79 percent of upper-middle-income countries, 70 percent of lower-middle-income countries, and 44 percent of lower-income countries possess a national plan, policy, or strategy on aging. Overall, higher-income countries tend to have older populations and higher life expectancies, necessitating more immediate planning around population aging, as well as greater expertise and allocation of resources to formalize and institutionalize plans. This trend suggests that international institutions, including multilateral development banks, can play a key role in supporting low-income countries to address this gap.

Indeed, in an independent evaluation of World Bank Support to Aging Countries, researchers identified funding, capacity-building, and research as key areas in which the World Bank and other multilateral development banks, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the African Development Bank (AfDB), can support countries as their populations continue to age. The ADB, for instance, has already begun to consider population aging in its work streams, with specific reference to it in its Strategy 2030

Figure 3

Income Level Directly Correlates with Plan Development

Higher income countries are most likely to develop national plans, while low-income countries
are least likely to develop a national plan.

Mapping Aging Plans, Policies, and Laws: Developing the Database of Action Plans for Aging (DAPA)

This analysis evaluated a sample of 50 plans from 46 countries and four subnational jurisdictions, analyzed in three tranches, one in 2022 and two in 2023, as part of an ongoing evaluation of plans around the world.1 National plans were prioritized and selected based on geographic diversity and level of economic development. They include countries from the six WHO regions and the five United Nations Regional Commissions—the organizations responsible for regional MIPAA reviews. They also represent countries at varying stages of development, with 18 from developed countries, 27 from developing countries, and five from least-developed countries, based on classifications provided by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. These plans overlap, but do not completely align, with other income- and development-based classifications, such as those by the World Bank or the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). All but eight (16 percent) plans were developed in the last ten years, underscoring the increased focus on population aging amid a widespread trend of demographic change.

Specific information regarding the country context, as well as key points pertaining to each plan’s development, goals, and implementation, are outlined in the Database.

Figure 4

Policies, Plans, and Strategies on Population Aging Included in Analysis

Region Country Plan Name
Africa Ethiopia National Plan of Action on Older Persons 1998–2007 EC (2006–2015 Gregorian Calendar)
Ghana National Ageing Policy: Ageing with Security and Dignity, 2010
Kenya National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing, 2018
Malawi National Policy on Older Persons (2016-2021)
Nigeria Strategic Roadmap on Ageing
Rwanda Rwanda National Older Persons Policy (2021–)
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe National Healthy Ageing Strategic Plan 2017–2020
Americas Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda National Policy and Plan of Action on Healthy Ageing (2017–2027)
Argentina National Plan for Older Persons (2012-2015)
California, United States Master Plan for Aging (2021-2030)2
Chile National Health Plan for Older People and Action Plan(2020-2030)
Colombia Colombian Policy on Aging and Old Age (2022–2031)
Costa Rica Costa Rica National Plan on Aging and Old Age (2011–2021)
Jamaica National Policy for Senior Citizens, 2021
Peru National Multi-Sectoral Policy for Older Adults (2021–2030)
Quebec, Canada A Québec for All Ages: An Action Plan for 2018-2023
Uruguay Second National Plan on Aging and Old Age (2016-2019)
Eastern Mediterranean Jordan National Strategy for Senior Citizens (2018-2022)
Lebanon National Strategy for Older Persons (2020-2030)
Europe Albania National Action Plan on Aging (2020-2024)
Austria Aging and Future: Federal Plan for Senior Citizens (2012)
Bulgaria National Comprehensive Strategy for Active Ageing (2016-2030)
Finland National Programme on Ageing 2030: For an age-competent Finland (2020–2030)
France Healthy aging: a comprehensive strategy for preventing the loss of autonomy (2020–2022)
Ireland National Positive Ageing Strategy (2013)
Israel Five-Year Strategic Plan for Optimal Aging in Israel (2021–2025)
Malta National Strategic Policy for Active Ageing (2014–2020)
Slovenia Active Aging Strategy (2017)
Turkey Turkey Healthy Aging Action Plan and Implementation Program 2015–2020
Wales, United Kingdom Age Friendly Wales: Our Strategy for an Ageing Society (2021)
Southeast Asia Cambodia National Ageing Policy (2017–2030)
India National Action Plan for Senior Citizens Umbrella Scheme (2021–2026)
Nepal Senior Citizens Act 2063 (2006)
Singapore Action Plan for Successful Ageing (2015-2030)
Sri Lanka National Elderly Health Policy of Sri Lanka (2017)
Thailand The Second National Plan on the Elderly (2002–2021)
Vietnam National Action Program on Older People for the Period 2021–2030
Western Pacific Fiji Fiji National Policy on Ageing (2011–2015)
New Zealand Better Later Life (2019–2034)
Queensland, Australia Healthy ageing – A strategy for older Queenslanders (2019) (2019)

These plans, policies, and strategies were assessed with regard to 19 key themes addressed within MIPAA’s three pillars and across the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing’s action areas. (See Figure 5 and Appendix B for definitions and reasons for inclusion.)

While the approach of the more recent UN Decade of Healthy Ageing highlights four key policy action areas and promotes multisectoral action for aging populations, MIPAA has acted as a foundational resource and norm-building framework for countries seeking to mainstream the needs of older persons across a wide range of policy areas since its publication in 2002. This includes promoting the adoption of national action plans on aging. Every five years, an MIPAA review is conducted by United Nations Regional Commissions. These reviews take stock of country progress toward MIPAA goals as defined in their respective MIPAA Regional Implementation Strategies, including tracking the development of national action plans on aging. As a result of these reviews, governments continue to draw on MIPAA and utilize its framework when developing and implementing plans, as several UN Regional Commissions ask countries to report progress on national plan development and implementation.

Of the plans reviewed here, 31 of 50 (62 percent) explicitly mention MIPAA as being an inspiration for their plan or acknowledge that it directly supports the goals and themes laid out in MIPAA, including those that were developed a decade or more after its release, affirming that MIPAA remains a hallmark of international policy on aging. MIPAA is also the most mentioned international policy document across the 50 plans, followed by the United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991), which is referenced by 14 plans (28 percent).3 Barbados, Chile, Eritrea, New Zealand, Panama, and Turkey’s plans were the only ones to directly mention
the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing. Of the 12 plans released after the Decade’s launch in 2020, one-fourth mentioned the Decade 

As Figure 5 illustrates, the MIPAA and the UN Decade goals broadly relate to promoting social development and protection, ensuring access to quality care, and building enabling environments for older persons.

Figure 5

18 Key Themes in International Frameworks on Aging4

Most plans cited MIPAA and the Decade of Healthy Ageing as inspiration for their targets.

Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing Pillar 1: Older persons and development Work & labor
Rural development
Education and training
Social protection and financial security
Intergenerational solidarity
Emergency response & disaster
Pillar 2: Advancing health and well-being into old age
Training care providers and health professionals
Mental health
Noncommunicable disease prevention
Pillar 3: Ensuring enabling and supportive environments
Support for informal caregivers
Transport & public spaces
Neglect, abuse, and violence
The Decade of Healthy Ageing: Relevant Action Areas
Combating Ageism
Long-term Care
Integrated care

Policy Alignment with MIPAA and the UN Decade Themes Is Significant but Incomplete

When accounting for the MIPAA themes and the UN Decade Action Areas, Barbados and Portugal have the most comprehensive plans of those evaluated, incorporating 16 of 18 total themes, followed by Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Guatemala, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and Uruguay, with 15 of the 18 themes. These plans are both comparatively broad—covering many types of issues that can impact health, enabling environments, and development outcomes for older persons—and relatively robust, as each policy issue includes at least one actionable objective, identifying a clear target and policies by which to achieve it. Plans from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Egypt, Ireland, and Jordan cite other plans, including plans from Australia, Canada, Chile, Kuwait, Malta, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Wales, as sources of inspiration for plan development. These plans are comparatively narrower in scope but have proven effective in implementation.

Figure 6

Themes Mapped by National and Subnational Plan

Across the 50 plans and supporting documents reviewed in this analysis, none of the MIPAA themes or UN Decade Action Areas was present in every single plan. The most prevalent were noncommunicable disease prevention, training care providers and health professionals, social protection and financial security, and education and training. (See Figure 7.) Conversely, plans were least likely to address the themes of HIV/AIDS, emergency response and disaster planning, and disability. Only seven of 50 plans (14.0 percent) addressed HIV/AIDS, 13 (26.0 percent) included targets relating to emergency response, and 14 (28.0 percent) addressed disability. HIV/AIDS is a major health challenge in certain countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa region. Accordingly, Ethiopia and Kenya’s plans both incorporate relevant targets. Kenya’s plan includes the decentralization of health care—including care for HIV/AIDS—to be accessible to older adults in all parts of the country, and the funding of more geriatric research, while Ethiopia’s plan includes targets to improve information on, and decrease stigma around, HIV/AIDS among older adults, and provide financial support to those diagnosed. However, many of the countries where HIV/AIDS is of particular concern do not yet have robust aging plans or frameworks, as their populations tend to be younger. As the United Nations 2020 Decade of Healthy Ageing report highlights, while older adults are disproportionally negatively affected by disasters and emergencies, they are often overlooked in emergency planning due to ageist attitudes that lead to the neglect of older persons and the specific risks they face. Aging plans that incorporate a focus on emergency planning, if implemented, can help to mitigate risks to, and better identify the needs of, older adults. For example, Barbados’ plan, published in September 2022, is acutely attuned to the potential impacts of disasters and other extreme events—including pandemics—on older adults. The plan’s recommendations include the development of a national disaster preparedness plan for older adults and enhanced training initiatives for emergency situations. 

Figure 7

Alignment of National Plans with International Frameworks

Plans Ensure Older Persons Benefit from Economic Development

The first MIPAA pillar recommends that governments act to ensure that older persons share equitably in the benefits of a country’s economic development. Thirty-nine of 50 plans reviewed (78 percent) included targets around improving older persons’ financial security and other social protections, 38 plans (76 percent) mention targets related to providing education and training, and 32 (64 percent) included targets to build intergenerational solidarity. The plans tend to reflect the national context and issues of greatest concern and priority. For example Bulgaria’s plan, the National Comprehensive Strategy for Active Ageing (2016–2030), has a heavy emphasis on employment—particularly on retraining and retaining older adults in the workforce, as the country will soon experience the world’s steepest decline in the working-age population. The case studies in the Database provide contextual information specific to each country alongside the goals and principles driving ongoing and forward-looking reforms.

Many developing countries, particularly those that are lower-income, have a strong focus on social development and protection, often through filial support laws. These laws require close family members—most often adult children—to provide financial and material support to aging relatives. Laws that stipulate that family members have a legal duty to care for relatives effectively largely shift the responsibility and funding for care and protection from the state to families. Filial support laws are common in developing countries, particularly in the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia regions, as policymakers in the 1990s drew upon cultural norms of filial piety and reciprocity to fill gaps in care. Cambodia’s National Ageing Policy 2017–2030, for example, explicitly connects the ideas of filial piety to social development by incorporating “Raising awareness and encouraging adult offspring who are able to provide financial support … in order to fulfill their filial duties” as one of three strategies for that country’s policy social development objective. Cambodia’s National Ageing Policy also identifies intergenerational connection and joint family structures as a hallmark of Khmer society.

Some Western countries or jurisdictions also incorporate filial laws into their legal systems of care. As of 2018, 29 U.S. states had filial support laws, although they are rarely enforced. These laws also tie into improving state support for informal caregivers, which is a feature in 33 out of 50 (66 percent) of the analyzed plans, including, for example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Singapore, Jamaica, Fiji, and Panama’s plans, and is included as a policy issue under MIPAA’s third pillar (called “Ensuring enabling and supportive environments”). Governments have long relied on families to fill gaps in care, and now many are planning or working on providing expanded support to caregivers, as well as acknowledging caregivers as essential stakeholders of healthy aging agendas. Such acknowledgment has driven the inclusion of caregiver support in healthy aging strategies, including Ethiopia’s National Plan of Action on Older Persons 1998–2007 EC (2006–2016 Gregorian calendar), which seeks to shore up and support traditional familial mutual support systems by providing educational and training opportunities to informal caregivers, respite services such as community-based care programs, and more holistically improving household income and well-being to build the economic capacity of the family. Several countries have even developed independent strategies, which are not discussed in this report. Examples of independent strategies include New Zealand’s Mahi Aroha–Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2019–2023, as well as the United States’ 2017–2018 RAISE Act, which directs the development of an independent Family Caregiving Strategy to support informal caregivers.

More Can Be Done to Mainstream Health Targets

Of the three MIPAA pillars, the second, “Advancing health and well-being into old age,” was least prioritized in the sample of 50 plans analyzed in this report. All of the plans have at least one health-related target, but many are not comprehensive across the spectrum of MIPAA’s health-related themes. This trend does not appear to be related to country development status. For example, the plans of Austria, California, Ghana, Nepal, and Ukraine all address only one aspect of health rather than taking a more comprehensive approach to healthy aging. However, we recognize that these gaps may be sufficiently covered in other policy documents beyond the scope of this analysis; for example, national health and social protection plans.

Targets relating to noncommunicable diseases and the health care workforce were the most common MIPAA policy issues to be included in the plans. Of those analyzed, 41 out of 50 plans (82 percent) included targets to prevent noncommunicable diseases, which are the leading cause of death and and disability worldwide and disproportionately affect older adults, while 39 out of 50 (78 percent) included targets to train care providers and health professionals. However, such measures are often mere targets that do not offer a policy solution or funding to realize these goals. 

Two of the United Nations Decade action areas—improving access to and quality of (1) long-term care and (2) integrated care—are themes that are relevant to the MIPAA health pillar. Among health-related UN themes, providing, expanding, and improving long-term care is the most likely to be included in national plans, with 30 of 50 plans (60 percent) including targets to those ends. This is important because currently only 5.6 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that mandate full, universal access to long-term care through national legislation. Providing older persons access to long-term care options can reduce the burden of care on families and allow older adults to choose how and where they wish to grow old, which in turn can improve older persons’ well-being.

Creating Age-Friendly Environments Important to Enhance Older Persons’ Quality of Life

The third MIPAA pillar emphasizes the promotion of enabling and supportive environments, corresponding with the fourth United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing action area promoting “age-friendly environments” and additionally aligning closely with the WHO’s Age Friendly Cities and Communities program. Supporting enabling environments for older persons includes ensuring access to quality housing and infrastructure as well as tackling ageism, neglect, and abuse, which can shape how older persons function and their overall well-being, both physically and mentally. Among the national plans analyzed, 28 out of 50 (56 percent) reported targets for protection from neglect, abuse, or violence. Elder abuse is prevalent globally, with one in six people over the age of 60 reporting abusive behavior in a nursing home or community setting, and around 64 percent of nursing home or long-term care staff reporting that they had committed some form of abuse in the past year. Abuse also frequently occurs in home care situations, and 33 of the 50 national plans (66 percent) identified the provision of additional support to informal caregivers, many of whom are family members, as a priority to combat caregiver burnout and lessen the incidence of abuse.

Eradicating ageism is another key target to promote an enabling environment for older persons and was included in 28 out of 40 plans (56 percent). According to the WHO’s 2021 Global Report on Ageism, roughly half of the world’s population holds ageist attitudes. An ageist environment that does not support the needs of older persons is associated with older generations dying 7.5 years earlier, making the reduction of ageist attitudes an important consideration for country plans. Plans that included a focus on combatting ageism generally recommended the creation of positive-images-of-aging campaigns as well as legislation that prohibits discrimination based on age. To combat abuse and ageism, many country plans aim to address and improve the quality of life of older persons holistically, as well as focusing on the protection of older persons and improving intergenerational solidarity 

Finally, 36 out of 50 (72 percent) of the plans in the Database identified improving housing availability, quality, and affordability, and expanding older persons’ access to transport and public spaces as priorities. New Zealand’s Better Later Life Strategy (2019–2034), for example, identifies the creation of functional, safe, and affordable housing for older people as one of five key priorities, with a particular emphasis on providing an option for older persons to remain independent and age-in-place in their home communities, as does Slovenia’s Active Aging Strategy (2017). Malta expanded its National Strategic Policy for Active Ageing (2014–2020) to include a free transportation service called the Silver-T, which assists older people in independently conducting daily activities and errands. A number of plans, including Queensland's Healthy ageing – A strategy for older Queenslanders (2019) in Australia, Panama’s National Plan for the Elderly (2022 - 2025), and Portugal’s National Strategy for Active and Healthy Aging (2017-2025), all highlight the WHO Age-Friendly Cities framework and commit to a series of adaptations to support aging in place. 


The Future of Mainstreaming Aging: Additional Policy Considerations to Improve Plan Design and Implementation

While the frameworks provided by MIPAA and the UN Decade of Health Aging provide important indicators against which to benchmark plans, this analysis identified four additional policy considerations that impact the future development and current implementation of national plans. For countries that plan to develop a new plan or update existing plans, it is important to also consider: (1) the engagement of older adults in national plan development through consultative or participatory processes, (2) ensuring successful implementation of stated goals and objectives through measurable outcomes, (3) the impact and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and those of future infectious disease outbreaks, and (4) the need to enhance equity and reduce disparities among older populations in healthy aging policies. While the first two factors are critical to the development and implementation of plans both new and old, the last two represent current policy challenges to healthy aging for nearly every country in the world—developed and developing.

Engaging Older Adults in Plan Development

International frameworks on healthy aging, including MIPAA and the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, acknowledge the meaningful engagement and empowerment of older persons as critical to developing, implementing, and evaluating healthy aging policies. Plans analyzed in this report utilized a variety of participatory processes to draw on the voices of older people during the development phase of these plans. Such processes included public consultations, social media outreach, public surveys, town hall meetings and forums, webinars, and community roundtables. Several jurisdictions—including Argentina, Barbados, Fiji, Ireland,
Portugal, Thailand, and Wales—consulted experts and civil society organizations representing older persons during plan development. In total, at least 36 of 50 plans (72 percent) utilized a participatory process that included the voices of older people, or organizations that represent them, during the development process 

Of the plans analyzed for this report, the Barbados National Plan on Ageing, the state of California’s Master Plan on Aging, which included input and involvement by AARP, the Colombian Policy on Aging and Old Age (2022–2031), and the Age-Friendly Wales strategy, stand out in their use of participatory processes in development. The Welsh strategy, in particular, was heavily informed by input from those age 50 and over through surveys and forums held in each local authority. This extensive consultation process helped ensure that the strategy was specifically designed around the needs and aspirations of older people in Wales. For example, it identifies improving the availability of public toilets as a priority to improving age-friendly communities; this priority was directly informed by the input of older persons, according to the strategy. Barbados’national policy likewise draws on a “Situational
Assessment Exercise on Essential Care/Services and Older Persons,” conducted in 2021, which included interviews with 150 older adults to better understand and map their challenges and concerns.
The solicitation and incorporation of older adult perspectives is a key component of effective and inclusive strategies.

Monitoring, Evaluation, and Resourcing for Implementation

The implementation of national plans is wholly dependent on the allocation of financial resources by governments toward plan objectives, as well as the application of effective monitoring and evaluation frameworks. While MIPAA briefly identifies the mobilization of resources and the establishment of monitoring and evaluation frameworks as crucial elements of implementation, the GSAP highlights the continued need for improved measuring, monitoring, and reporting systems for healthy aging.Thirty-two plans (64 percent) analyzed in this report recommend the development of indicators to track progress toward the plan’s goals
or policy recommendations. At least 20 of these jurisdictions (40 percent) have published indicators and have begun tracking progress related to healthy aging, including Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Peru, the province of Quebec, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, Malta, Portugal. and Slovenia utilize—or plan to utilize—the European Active Ageing Index, a tool developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to measure healthy aging. Plans that create specific, actionable targets that are based on data, and then provide sufficient funding to accomplish their objectives, are needed to improve the lives of older persons. The AAI is intended to ease this process for European policymakers by identifying relevant indicators for monitoring progress toward targets, including many of the goals highlighted in MIPAA, and is additionally intended for comparison and analysis of aging policies across Europe.

The Active Ageing Index for Europe

The Active Ageing Index (AAI) is a project developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Population Unit, European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, and the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna to measure active and healthy aging. Its design process drew on resources and features from the WHO, the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations framework, MIPAA, and the UNDP Human Development Index, integrating aspects from each. The AAI includes 22 indicators grouped into four domains, which cover employment, participation, independent living, and enabling environments. In its latest 2018 report, the Active Ageing Index compared progress on these indicators across 28 countries in Europe. Since its inception in 2015, the AAI has served as a source of inspiration for countries designing and implementing national aging plans. Several countries, including two outlined in this report, designed plans around the areas of the AAI and utilize the index as a monitoring and evaluation tool. The creation of a parallel Active Ageing Index is being explored for Asia.

However, there is a clear divide between developed and developing countries regarding the resourcing and monitoring of plans. One key barrier to monitoring policies, particularly for lower- and middle-income countries, is limited access to data. Approximately 75 percent of the world’s countries have little to no data on older age groups or healthy aging, meaning that many countries have a limited capacity to monitor existing plan goals or develop future evidence-based policies. Beyond monitoring mechanisms, research revealed that only 18 of 50 plans (36 percent) analyzed for this report were provided with a budget by the national or subnational government for the plan’s implementation, including those implemented by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the state of California, Eritrea, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, the province of Quebec, and Singapore. 


Harnessing Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in national government protections and global health systems for older adults, highlighting a range of complex challenges that must be addressed in future national plans to prepare for an increased risk of future disease outbreaks and their impacts on care and support for older adults and vulnerable people. At the start of the pandemic, it became clear that older adults are at a higher risk for severe infection. However, the impact of COVID-19 on older adults goes far beyond the risk of infection, affecting older people’s daily routines, the care and support they receive, and their ability to stay socially connected. Additionally, the pandemic has caused widespread economic insecurity among older people and even hastened older adults’ departure from the workforce, reducing their ability to support themselves and their families. In particular, gaps in employment, income, care, and social connection are a result of society’s increased dependence on digital technologies during the pandemic to facilitate work, health care, and social connection, alongside widespread digital illiteracy among older adults.

Due to these profound impacts, national aging plans developed after 2020 increasingly address COVID-19 and the digital divide. Twelve of the plans examined in this report (24 percent)—those from Barbados, Bulgaria, the state of California, Chile, Finland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Wales—address the impacts of COVID-19 on older adults. New Zealand’s latest four-year Action Plan for the implementation of the Better Later Life Strategy addresses the impacts of COVID-19 on social isolation, digital inclusion, working older adults, and housing. Kazakhstan’s national action plan, released in 2020, likewise highlights the impacts of social isolation on older adults and includes specific action areas related to meeting their social and psychological needs in emergency situations. In 2023, Singapore released an updated action plan on healthy aging accounting for troubling trends produced by COVID-19 and pandemic response measures. Other countries are working to address COVID-19 through future policy. Austria for example, reportedly plans to conduct a study on the impact of COVID-19 on older adults, while Malta plans to release a new Strategic Policy for Active Ageing that will incorporate targets related to COVID-19. Countries could
identify and aim to cover key gaps that were exposed by COVID-19, including addressing
digital inclusion, as they develop their national plans.

Enhancing Equity and Reducing Disparities

Older women; racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; displaced peoples; persons with disabilities; LGBTQ persons; indigenous peoples; and people in specific settings such as fragile states face significant inequities, particularly relating to health and financial security that demand attention in national plans. Gender disparities are mentioned or addressed in many of the plans—Kenya’s National Policy on Older Persons and Ageing, 2018, for example, identifies gender as one of four cross-cutting areas to be addressed and integrated into all nine of its thematic policy areas. Ireland’s Positive Ageing Strategy stands out for its attention to Irish Travellers, a nomadic ethno-cultural group that has traditionally faced political and social discrimination and exclusion. As of 2018, the Positive Ageing Strategy includes 14 indicators on healthy aging for Irish Travellers, covering their social and cultural participation, housing, access to health care, and health behaviors. Ireland’s example of collecting and publishing data relevant to an older historically marginalized group reveals the importance of data in making older, marginalized populations more “visible” in policy frameworks, as well as older people in general, which can reduce the impacts of ageism and improve older populations’ resilience. Guatemala’s national policy similarly highlights the principles of “equity, comprehensiveness, and cultural relevance” in reference to the country’s three main Indigenous groups—the Maya, Xinca, and the Garífuna—who are particularly susceptible to health-related challenges. Equity, equality, and non-discrimination are key human rights principles and must apply equally to all people and marginalized groups in a country. Another gap is that MIPAA specifically addresses HIV/AIDS, and yet it is under-addressed in national plans. While this challenge has been diminished in developed country contexts in recent years, it remains a health concern across the developing world.

Looking Ahead

National planning to mainstream aging is a key pathway to protect older populations and facilitate healthy aging. It is also crucial for societies to prepare for and cope with demographic changes. To date, only 141 United Nations Member States have developed some form of policy to mainstream older persons and aging across relevant policy areas, meaning that as many as 54 member states lack any sort of broad strategy or law related to aging at the national or subnational level. While this growth represents a marked improvement from the number of plans reported by the WHO in its 2020 baseline report—increasing from 105 to 141 plans,
strategies, and policies in just three years—there is more progress to be made.  For many of these countries, resource limitations, including chronic underfunding, and persistent data gaps, especially sex- and age-disaggregated data, present significant barriers to developing and implementing a plan on aging.


The ‘Return on Investment’ for Prioritizing Aging and Older Persons:

While data availability on older persons and its collection has been identified as a key “enabler” for the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing—meaning that it is critical to the achievement of the Decade’s goals—and has prompted significant international work on the issue (see the Titchfield Group on Aging-related Statistics and Age-Disaggregated Data), more research is needed on the economic impact of funding national aging agendas and potential returns on investments in older persons. Although the full economic benefits of mainstreaming aging are still unclear, an independent report commissioned by Public Health Wales explores the potential return on government investments in older adults. The report Living Well for Longer estimated that every £1 ($1.26) investment in facilitating active aging can generate between £0.79 ($0.99) and £112.42 ($141.26) in social value within Wales.

Other analyses have concluded that investing in the retention of older adults in the workforce can provide significant returns, and workforce retention and training are likewise key policy areas for both MIPAA and the UN Decade. According to the OECD Promoting an Age-Inclusive Workforce report, building multigenerational workforces could raise GDP per capita by 19 percent by 2050. Preparing health care systems and workforces for an aged population will be critical, particularly in developing countries where fewer plans exist and 71 percent of population aging will occur by 2050. In addition to economic gains from investing in older persons, prioritizing older persons also can lessen ageism, increase intergenerational support, and improve social cohesion across a country’s population, according to a 2017 report by HelpAge International. This shift of perspective can help all generations view older persons as worthy of respect and dignity, and as people who can contribute to society rather than those who are a perceived as a “burden” on the system. The potential dividends of investing in older persons extend across the economy, health, and social spheres, yet support for healthy aging agendas in multilateral financial institutions remains in preliminary stages.

Developing a national plan requires political will among government leaders and serves as a key opportunity for countries, especially those facing a significant demographic shift, to plan for aging populations and improve the health and well-being of older persons. To that end, civil society organizations that represent and mobilize on behalf of aging populations play a critical role in mobilizing political will by holding government leaders to account and bringing the needs and aspirations of older adults to the forefront of policy agendas. Policymakers are also well served by considering the themes laid out in international frameworks on aging, including MIPAA and the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, which are explored in this report’s policy map. New plans and updates to pre-existing ones in the future will also need to consider lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, as relates to physical and mental health, to ensure that any approach to support the well-being of aging populations addresses equity concerns among underserved groups and integrates, rather than isolates, older adults in society.

Absent sufficient support, there is a risk that national strategies will remain aspirational ideals rather enacted policy. This support is necessary across all levels of government, from ministers setting the policy agenda to local government agencies responsible for implementation alongside non-governmental and multilateral partners. At a high level, political will can be demonstrated by the investment of resources over the long term, such as Australia’s commitment in its FY 2021-22 budget to spend AUD 17.7 billion over five years to reform the national care system for the elderly, or the creation of specific bodies, such as the United Kingdom’s creation of a Minister for Loneliness in 2018. As policy priorities shift between political administrations, continued attention and resources are essential to maintain progress, and the persistence of local civil society and non-governmental organizations as advocates for change can ensure that targets laid out in national plans or international agreements such as MIPAA will be continuously brought to the attention of policymakers. 

The analysis contained within this report demonstrates the importance of alignment with international frameworks as well as the use of participatory, consultative, and inclusive processes when developing plans. Effective plans are also contextually sensitive and tailored to local realities. Critically, they estimate and allocate financial resources to support implementation and harness data to monitor progress toward stated goals and objectives.

For additional information on these national plans, see the Database of Action Plans for Aging (DAPA), and for additional case studies and resources on Healthy Aging, explore the AARP-FP Analytics Toolkit.

Appendix Glossary of key Themes

This glossary provides a description of the 19 key themes used to assess plans, policies, and strategies on aging. These themes were derived from the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing as well as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing. The glossary identifies the source of each key theme, including the specific MIPAA pillar or UN Decade action area the theme falls under.

Source: MIPAA (Pillar 1: Older persons and development)
  • Work and Labor
    Many older persons need or want to work, and could be productively integrated into a country’s workforce, often through accommodations or other forms of educational or training support.

  • Rural Development
    Rural development is integral to supporting aging populations, as many older persons live in underserved rural areas, without sufficient access to quality health care and social services or other forms of support.

  • Education and Training
    Continuing education and training can support older adults in finding and keeping productive, meaningful, and lucrative work. Additionally, older adults can find personal meaning in educational opportunities, which can promote well-being and wellness.

  • Social Protection and Financial Security
    Promoting social protection and financial security include avoiding poverty among older adults, enabling older persons to contribute to or access pensions, and developing other social support measures.

  • Intergenerational Solidarity
    Intergenerational solidarity refers to actions that enable social cohesion, support informal systems of care, and reduce ageism, as people experience the benefits of engaging with other generations, both younger and older than themselves.

  • Emergency Response and Disaster
    The needs of older persons are often neglected or not considered, even though older persons are highly vulnerable, during emergency situations. Older persons’ needs could be better integrated into emergency response and disaster planning.

Source: MIPAA (Pillar 2: Advancing Health and Well-being into Old Age)
  • Training Care Providers and Health Professionals
    Globally, there is a lack of qualified care professionals—especially geriatricians—to serve the growing population of older persons. This results in many older people going without adequate access to, and quality of, specialized care, which is a gap that many countries aim to fill in their national plans.

  • Mental Health
    Mental health challenges can lead to reduced well-being and quality of life for older persons, and mental health care is often inaccessible due to cost or availability.

  • Disability
    Incidence of disability increases with age, and older women are particularly vulnerable to disability in old age. This theme is not referring to disability legislation or targets that include persons with disability in general of all ages, but instead to targets that aims to reduce the incidence of disabilities among older adults.

  • Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Nutrition
    Noncommunicable disease prevention refers to the holistic health of people as they age, through activities such as encouraging healthy diets and exercise routines, ceasing smoking, and supporting mental health. Malnutrition or a lack of food security are also integral to overall health, and can be challenges in certain contexts, particularly in developing or least-developed countries.

    Older persons, particularly in some developing or least-developed contexts, can be at risk of HIV infections as they may not be targeted in public health campaigns and may not know how to protect themselves from infection.

Source: MIPAA (Pillar 3: Ensuring enabling and supportive environments)
  • Housing
    Many countries struggle to provide sufficient access to, affordability of, and quality of housing for older persons, which can lead to homelessness. Choice in housing is also an important consideration, in that providing older persons a choice in where and how they live can result in positive health and well-being outcomes and a sense of autonomy.

  • Support for Informal Caregivers
    Informal caregivers, who are often family members, receive little or no governmental support or recognition. Providing support for informal caregivers may entail paying a wage to caregivers, training caregivers in simple medical procedures, or setting up accessible respite care.

  • Transport and Public Spaces
    Transportation systems and public spaces may assume a level of physical fitness that older persons cannot maintain (such as having stairs to access public buildings), which can inhibit older persons from being fully integrated into society. Accessing transportation services, in particular, may be a challenge for older adults living in rural areas, where they may be physically and socially isolated.

  • Neglect, Abuse, and Violence
    Older persons are vulnerable to physical, psychological, or financial abuse, and policies and plans may consider action to protect them from abuse in all forms.

United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (Decade Action Areas)
  • Age-Friendly Environments
    Implementing age-friendly environments entails actions that would support older persons’ autonomy, capacity, and health, and promote removal of physical or social barriers that prevent older persons from freely integrating in society. This theme, while integral to the UN Decade’s goals, is overarching covering several key themes addressed by MIPAA, including employment, housing, transport, and public space. As a result, this theme shares a section with “ensuring enabling and supportive environments” or the purposes of this analysis.
  • Combating Ageism
    Ageism shapes how societies view older persons — in many contexts, older persons are viewed in a negative light — which can in turn result in worse health and well-being outcomes for older persons. Policies or actions to combat ageism include campaigns that aim to reframe aging as a positive process or older generations as playing an essential societal function, such as caring for children.

  • Long-Term Care
    Long-term care, which often includes palliative and end of life care as well as nursing homes, enables older adults to live with dignity, choose how to spend their older years, and access on-site health care, especially for those with complex medical conditions. In many countries, long-term care is challenging to fund or provide sufficient quality and accessibility, due to shortages in the global caregiving workforce.

  • Integrated Care
    Integrated care addresses all factors affecting health holistically and avoids the siloing of care and information between doctors and specialists, as well as other forms of social and health support into a person-centered care system.

Additional Themes Considered but Not Included
MIPAA (Pillar 2: Advancing Health and Well-Being into Old Age)
  • Nutrition and Food Security
    This theme was not included in the analysis because it could be easily integrated into the noncommunicable disease prevention theme. Additionally, few policies or plans included specific targets around supporting nutrition and food security for older persons.

United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (Decade Action Areas)
  • Age-friendly Environments
    Implementing age-friendly environments indicates actions that would support older persons’ autonomy, capacity, and health, and promote removing any physical or social barriers that prevent older persons from freely integrating in society. This theme, while integral to the UN Decade’s goals, was not included in the analysis as many of policies or actions that could be carried out to support age-friendly environments are included in other, more specific themes, such as housing and transport and public space.


References from Synthesis Report and Database of Action Plans on Aging