The Fullness of time
Beneath the massive canopy of a single banyan tree as many as 20,000 people have been known to gather, and traditionally the tree has been afocalpoint of community life in many countries, providing shelter for markets, social andreligiousgatherings, and meetings of village elders.
It was under the sign of a stylized banyan tree (above) that the United Nations World Assembly on Aging gathered at Vienna, from 26 July to 6 August this year, to formulate an international plan of action to improve the quality of life of the world'sfastest growing age group, the over 60s.
Longevity in the past was for the few. In our century it has become the destiny of the majority. For this reason we have opened this issue of the Unesco Courier both to the elderly, represented by a remarkable nonagenarian, Philip Whitcomb, who opens our eyes to the enormouspotential contribution of the over 60s, and to the young, who explain their relationships with and attitudes towards an age group to which they themselves will one day belong.
A long lifein itselfis valueless unless it is also afull life. Ana Asian and Victor Kozlov bring us up to date with the latest research on the aging process and the prospectsfor improving standards of health during the later stages of life. The example of the vigorous centenarians who inhabit the high valleys of the world is portrayed in words and pictures, and Nsang O'Khan Kabwasa and Yi Shui describe the social aspects of growing old in Africa and China.
Finally, a Unesco study on education and aging and a summary of the International Plan of Action drawn up in Vienna to guide States in handling problems brought about by the worldwide increase in the number of elderly persons make clear the need for immediate action ifthe transition to a world in which an extended lifespan is the norm is to be smoothly accomplished.