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WASH and older people

Today, people worldwide can expect to live into their 60s and beyond. There are estimated to be around 900 million older adults (aged 60 years and above), around 13 per cent of the world population. Globally, one in six people (1.5 billion) will be aged 65 years or above by 2050, with the number of persons aged 80 years or above expected to reach 426 million (WHO 2021a). Furthermore, nearly half of the global population of older people have a disability (Global Humanitarian Overview 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic helped shed light on the specific needs of older people as a group more susceptible to severe disease/infection, and revealed the lack of capacity within water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) NGOs to respond to these specific needs.

This SLH Learning Paper explores the WASH needs of older people in both development and humanitarian contexts, as well as the fundamental role older people play in facilitating other people’s WASH access, health, and wellbeing. The Learning Paper refers to the data WASH actors collect on older people in order to understand their differing WASH needs, the barriers to accessing WASH, and the need to ensure older people’s participation, including their active role in helping find the solutions.

The authors conducted a literature review, assessing both the academic and grey literature concerning the multiple connections among the health, dignity and independence of older people in a WASH context. The final recommendations were developed based on the documents reviewed and the experience of the authors.

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