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Finland: do more to respect diverse needs of older persons – UN expert

HELSINKI (4 November 2021) – Finland has a commendable social protection and social care system for older persons, but needs to recognize they are not a homogenous group and do more to serve their individual needs, a UN expert said today. 

At the end of a 10-day-long visit to Finland, Claudia Mahler, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, applauded the country’s commitment and political will to include older persons.

“This is reflected in legislation and policies in areas such as participation, social protection, social and health care services and housing strategies to ensure that older persons can live at home and get the necessary support,” Mahler said in a statement  at the end of her visit.

However, she said, the State’s commitment to the rights of older persons needs to be reflected in everyday practice, and the government needs to do more to uphold the human rights of older persons. In particular, Finland needs to recognise that people may not simply be older, they may also be gender diverse, indigenous, or come from various ethnic backgrounds. 

Older  lesbian,  gay,  bisexual,  transgender  and  intersex  persons  are  one  of  the  most vulnerable groups, receive insufficient services and end up with poor health outcome, she said. They may also face more than one form of discrimination. 

“I also noted a disconnect between the commitment and everyday implementation in practice at the district and municipal levels, with the availability and quality of services varying considerably depending on where a person lives,” Mahler said. “Access to culturally sensitive services is also a concern for Sámi community members and older Roma persons.”

She called for changes to legislation and practice to make sure older persons can fully enjoy their human rights. 

“I hope that my visit and my report will assist the country to continue advancing towards the establishment of a truly inclusive and age friendly society,” she said.


Ms. Claudia Mahler (Austria) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2020. She has been working for the German Institute for Human Rights as a senior researcher in the field of economic, social and cultural rights since 2010. She was also a visiting professor at the Alice Salomon Hochschule in 2020-2021. From 2001 to 2009, Ms. Mahler conducted research at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Potsdam where her main fields were in human rights education, minority rights and the law of asylum. In 2000, she received her doctoral degree and was appointed as Vice President of the Human Rights Commission for Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

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.

UN Human Rights, country page – Finland

For further information and media requests, please contact: Ms. Hee-Kyong Yoo (In Geneva +41 22 917 9723, during the visit +41 79 752 0481, yoo@un.org)

In Geneva: Ms. Tina Kalamar (+41 22 928 9774); email: tina.kalamar@un.org or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contactFor media inquiries related to other UN independent experts, please contact Renato Rosario De Souza (renato.rosariodesouza@un.org) or Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts.

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