The contribution of standards to improving the quality of life for the elderly is the subject of a workshop being held by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) on 10 May 1999, at the Georgetown University Conference Center, in Washington DC, USA.

The title of the workshop is, "Meeting the needs of aging populations: enhancing the quality of life through standards", and is being organized by the ISO Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO), in close collaboration with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI: E-mail info@ansi.org; Web www.ansi.org). The objective is to generate recommendations on opportunities for improving the quality of life for the aged through the development of guidelines, standards and consumer education programmes.

By the year 2025, one in every four persons in developed countries will be over 60 and many developing countries too are faced with challenges arising from the increasing elderly composition of their populations. This year, 1999, has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Older Persons and participants at the ISO workshop will include the Coordinator of the UN programme, Mr. Alexandre Sidorenko, who will be speaking on the theme, "Society for all ages: from concept to strategy".

The programme (see ISO's Web site: www.iso.org) includes speakers from Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States, representing organizations for the elderly and for consumers, government agencies and standards institutes. They will be covering specific issues such as health care (nutrition and pharmaceuticals) and safety (both of products and in the home), as well as more general aspects of the quality of life for the aged. Perspectives will be offered from international and national viewpoints, and from developed and developing countries.

"Declines in both the birth rate and mortality rate are causing the private sectors and governments to feel major economic impacts on society as a whole because of the needs of the aging population," says ISO in its workshop programme. "Educating the consumer on issues related to quality of life, independence, health care and safety is critical so that countries can develop the important infrastructure needed to support an aging society."