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Do more to protect human rights of older people suffering dementia, UN expert urges States

Call comes for World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September

GENEVA (19 September 2014) – States need to do more to protect older people affected by dementia from stigmatisation, discrimination, victimization and neglect, the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons has said.

In comments to mark World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte called for concerted action to ensure that older persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can fully enjoy their human rights in all circumstances. “The whole of society shares responsibility for the welfare of older persons with dementia and is called upon to finding comprehensive solutions," the UN expert said.

“Dementia should not be considered as a normal part of ageing. Dementia is a disease, and can be the result of multiple factors,” the Independent Expert said. “States and other stakeholders need to raise awareness and to adopt a human rights-based approach to protect the rights and dignity of older persons with dementia.”

According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 35.6 million, and this is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

Older persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often face violations of their human rights, abuse and neglect, as well as widespread discrimination. As their autonomy decreases, they are moreover progressively deprived of their political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights.

“States need to take appropriate action to ensure that older persons affected by dementia can still participate in the public life of their communities,” said Ms Kornfeld-Matte. This includes providing accessible information and the support they need, both human and technical, to facilitate their continued participation in public life and in the decisions that affect them.

“The voices of older people and those who look after them need to be heard in a meaningful way,” she said. “It is also important to conduct further research to better understand the challenges faced by older persons living with dementia and to enable them to enjoy their rights in dignity,” the UN expert said.

World Alzheimer's Day was launched by Alzheimer’ Disease International in 1994 and it is part of World Alzheimer’s Month, an international campaign to raise awareness and challenge stigma. Alzheimer’ Disease International is an international federation of 84 Alzheimer associations around the world, in official relations with the World Health Organization.


Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. As a mandate holder, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte is independent from any government or organisation, and serves in her individual capacity.

Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

Human rights of older persons: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67 / khassine@ohchr.org) or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org

For other media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:

Liz Throssell, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)