Yangyel Lhaden 

By 2050, Asia and the Pacific are expected to undergo a significant demographic shift, with a quarter of the total population aged 60 or older. However, despite this impending change, the region remains ill-prepared to ensure the well-being of its ageing population, especially in developing Asia.

This insight comes from the Ageing Well in Asia report 2024, prepared by the Economic Research and Development Impact Department of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In Bhutan, a similar trend is observed, with the elderly population experiencing unprecedented growth due to declining fertility rates and increased life expectancy.

In 2022, individuals aged 60 and above constituted 9.5 percent of the population, a figure projected to double to 19.7 percent by 2047. Similarly, those aged 65 and above made up 6.6 percent of the population in 2022, with expectations to rise to 13.4 percent by 2047.

The ADB report highlights the challenges faced by the elderly population, including the fact that a staggering 94 percent of workers aged over 65 are employed in the informal sector, lacking benefits such as paid leave and pensions. Moreover, there exists a wide rural-urban gap in terms of financial preparedness for retirement.

The report advocates for multifaceted policy recommendations to address the needs of aging populations.

Governments are urged to prioritise healthy ageing through initiatives such as promoting healthy diets, primary care, and health awareness campaigns.

Additionally, expanding pension coverage and fostering greater financial literacy are recommended to ensure economic security in old age. Family support, particularly through social pension coverage, is deemed vital to mitigate poverty risks among the elderly.

Furthermore, establishing comprehensive long-term care systems and supporting family caregivers are emphasised as crucial steps. Combatting social isolation among older individuals is also highlighted, with suggestions for community-based initiatives and age-friendly cities, among others.

In Bhutan, efforts are underway to address these challenges.

The government has allocated Nu two billion for a social protection scheme benefiting all Bhutanese. A policy for senior citizens was endorsed last year with objectives, including active participation in decision-making processes, provision of secure housing, social security measures, and safeguarding their rights.

Masatsugu Asakawa, ADB president, emphasises the Bank’s commitment to assisting member nations in achieving universal health coverage, investing in quality infrastructure, fostering age-friendly urban development, reforming pensions and social security, and establishing robust community-based long-term care systems.

The report emphasises the importance of providing policymakers with essential data and analysis to facilitate informed decision-making.