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Re-think our cities – UN expert calls for older persons’ accessibility to all urban settings

25th UN International Day of Older Persons - Thursday 1 October 2015

GENEVA (29 September 2015) – Speaking ahead of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons*, the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, urges States to improve older persons’ accessibility to urban infrastructure, facilities and services.

“We need to re-think our cities. Over 900 million older persons will be living in cities across the world by 2050, but our cities are not fit for this global demographic revolution.

The existing barriers in public spaces and buildings, as well as the lack of safe, affordable, accessible and barrier-free housing and transportation obstruct older persons from fully enjoying their rights and from living in dignity and safety in their communities.

Urban spaces and design often exacerbate segregation and the exclusion of older persons. This becomes increasingly visible during recovery after disasters and emergency situations in the face of climate change. But in this regard, I am encouraged by the recent adoption of the new 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and hope that States will actually do what they agreed to.

Innovative housing, innovative transportation and innovative buildings programmes that make our cities accessible to all are urgently needed. Urban spaces have to be resilient and accessible to older persons, if we want to build inclusive, dynamic, resilient and sustainable cities and communities.

For cities and environments to be age-friendly, the effective implementation of comprehensive and inter-sectorial policies and planning is required. Regulatory procedures, building codes and mortgage regulations need to take into account the concerns of older persons and reflect their diversity.

The Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which will take place in 2016, will be an important occasion for States and other parties to renew their commitments to protect and promote the rights of older persons in urban related context. And I strongly urge all States to include an age perspective and a human rights-based approach into the New Urban Agenda as a matter of priority.

Urban spaces have to be resilient and accessible to older persons, if we want to build inclusive, dynamic, resilient and sustainable cities and communities. For that, we need to re-think our cities now.”

(*) On 14 December 1990, the UN General Assembly designated 1 October the International Day of Older Persons. Every year, a theme is selected and many events are organized at the UN headquarters in Geneva and New York to give visibility to the situation of older persons. This year’s theme is: “Sustainability and Age Inclusiveness in the Urban Environment”.

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by the 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. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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

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

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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