Today is International Day of Older People, a day to remember and re-engage support for older people who are so often forgotten in society.

An increasing elderly population across the globe has led to questions about how we can support a population that is getting older.

This year’s theme, “leaving no-one behind” echoes the guiding principle of the Post 2015 strategy for international development, to be inclusive of all.

For some older people, being forgotten and excluded from society is not a new feeling; they have experienced this their whole lives. This is because they had leprosy.

Thousands of older people in India and Bangladesh are living with the long term effects of leprosy. Many have been permanently disabled in their hands, feet and eyes due to the lack of treatment for leprosy in earlier stages.

Leprosy causes loss of sensitivity in the skin and nerves, which means people are unaware when they have injured themselves. Injuries lead to infections, eventually causing loss of fingers and toes.

A cure for leprosy has been available for 60 years but due to the stigma and prejudice surrounding the disease, many in this generation were far too afraid to seek treatment.

Many older people affected by leprosy now live in colonies across India and Bangladesh, too institutionalised to leave.

Older people are frequently excluded from global health strategies. The World Health Organization’s statistics on leprosy do not include the numbers of older people disabled by the disease.

We care for the person, young or old, and help them to rebuild their lives. We teach older people how to care for their disabilities to prevent them worsening.

We also provide disability aids such as shoes and assistive devices to enable people to eat with cutlery. This can be life changing for someone who has lost their fingers and toes.

Older people have just as much right to dignity, respect and support as people of any age. Join our campaign to #BeatLeprosy for people from all generations.

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