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Human rights of older persons

Introduction

On 1 October the world celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons © UNIn recent years, there have been significant advocacy efforts calling for enhanced international thinking and action on the human rights of older persons. Various stakeholders have called for more visibility and increased use of international human rights standards to address the dire situation of millions of older women and men around the world.

Not very long ago, the issue of ageing was considered a matter of importance for only a handful of countries. Nowadays, the number of persons aged 60 and over is increasing at an unprecedented pace, anticipated to rise from its current 740 million to reach 1 billion by the end of the decade. Unfortunately the increase in numbers has also shed light on the lack of adequate protection mechanisms, and on the existing gaps in policies and programmes to address the situation of older persons. Today, two-thirds of the world’s older people live in low-and middle-income countries and this proportion will rise to 80 per cent by 2050.

Older persons are not a homogenous group, and the challenges they face in the protection or enjoyment of their human rights vary greatly. While some continue to lead active lives as part of their community, many others face homelessness, lack of adequate care or isolation.

Multiple discrimination appears as an essential component of any analysis, particularly when considering that age-related discrimination if often compounded by other grounds of discrimination, such as sex, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or health status.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights strives to ensure that neglected population groups are given space and weight in the human rights agenda, and that governments take all measures required to protect and promote their human rights. The role of the Office is to ensure a voice for all, especially for those whose voices are seldom heard.

Report of the Secretary General to the General Assembly

For the first time the Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly focuses on the human rights of older persons. It identifies four main challenges older persons are facing in terms of human rights as discrimination, poverty, violence and abuse as well as the lack of specific measures and services. The report further stresses several key areas for responses to the challenges as strengthening the international protection regime, elimination of financial exploitation and employment discrimination, establishing adequate care facilities and participation in political life.