World’s Elderly Face Abuse, Stigmatization and Violence

Human Wrongs Watch

They now total 700 million people. By 2050 they will be about two billion or over 20 per cent of the world’s population. Many of them are still vibrant and essential contributors to the development and stability. Yet, they are largely excluded from the wider global and national development agendas.They are the elderly–our parents and grandparents.

Credit: UN

Credit: UN

Ahead of this year’s International Day of Older Persons on October 1, the UN High Commissioner for Human

Rights Navi Pillay, reported that two-thirds of the world’s older people live in low- and middle-income countries.

She called on Governments “to introduce social pension schemes for older people and to adopt adequate measures in areas such as housing, health, transport, access to water and personal security to ensure that they are not discriminated against or left unprotected.”

For his part, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that in sub-Saharan Africa, 20 per cent of rural women aged 60 and older are the sole supporters for their grandchildren. “They take on added and often unexpected responsibilities, typically with little or none of the necessary resources and desperately need social services, especially social pensions.”

Financial Crisis Not To Erode Their Protection

Current fiscal crisis must not erode social protections for elderly,” Ban warned. “The provision of social protection, long-term care and access to public health for the elderly must not be undermined because of the current fiscal environment,” he stressed.

We must put an end to age discrimination, abuse, neglect and violence against older persons,” he stressed, urging governments to institute measures to provide greater support to a growing number of older people,” who played an important role in society “as leaders, caregivers and volunteers.” In countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is often grandparents who are left to care for AIDS orphans, said Ban.


Governments and communities everywhere should “provide more opportunities for their ageing populations,” he said, stressing that independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity underpin the human rights of older persons.

Older persons are vibrant and essential contributors to the development and stability of society, and more can and should be done to utilize their potential,” Ban added.

Progress has been made over the past decade in the formulation of national plans of action related to ageing, including the emergence of non-contributory pensions in some developing countries. “However, discrimination and social exclusion persist,” he warned.

The Elderly, a Marginal Area in Human Rights

Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, said “the rights of older persons are often considered to be a marginal area in human rights, and States must adopt policies to reverse this, with more resources devoted to geriatric health care and a greater focus directed to treatment for long-term and chronic pain.”

In a rapidly ageing word, many older persons would agree that old age is bad for your rights,” he added. “As you reach old age, you are more likely to be ignored, patronized, denied access to social security or healthcare, abused, forcefully medicated without your consent or denied medical treatment at all due to your age. The list is just too long.”

Empower Them!

Calling for empowering older persons to exercise their rights, in particular the right to health, Grover said: “Despite modern society’s strides in human longevity, millions of older persons suffer daily from the age-old problems of prejudice, stigmatization, discrimination and lack of access to appropriate health care… States must have policies and adopt measures to ensure old age is no longer bad for your human rights, including the right to health.”


2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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