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NGO Reporter – Nov2020 – Human Rights for Old and Young

By November 16, 2020No Comments

Human Rights for Old and Young:
A Life Course Approach

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Thirty years ago, the United Nations (UN) designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) to celebrate the contributions that older persons make to their families and communities, but at the same time to address the inequalities and unmet needs that they face. Progress has been made over the years, but at a snail’s pace.

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Ironically, it has taken a pandemic to serve as a wake-up call. Death rates are rising among people over age 60 and ageism is rearing its ugly head once again as the value of older lives are questioned. This year’s International Day, with the theme of “Pandemics: How Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing,” looked at aging through a different lens—envisioning a society where the focus is on healthy aging, where older and younger people have equal value and human rights disparities are eliminated. This brief video from Dr. Jane Barratt, the Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, sums it up nicely.

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(For a video of the full event, watch it on UN WebTV.)
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Leaving No One Behind

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When the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were being drafted, those who provided input from the ageing field focused on a life course approach to solving problems, where no one—regardless of age—would be left behind. As new member of the NGO Global Executive Committee and on the Intergenerational sub-committee, I believe the time is right for all generations to use this as a mantra and come together to jumpstart the conversation about equal rights for everyone no matter what their stage in life. We have often been siloed as we do our work. It’s not just about ageing issues and it’s not just about concerns of youth. We need each other so together we can create a better world for all.

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Fannie Munlin, Chairperson of the Global NGO, has indicated that articles featuring intergenerational dialogues and program highlights will be featured in upcoming issues of The NGO Reporter. This one—offering perspectives from ageing—is kicking the series off.

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What are Some Issues in Ageing?

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The population over age 60 is growing rapidly due to better health conditions in many places in the world along with a reduction over the years in infant mortality. About 13% of the global population is 60 years and over now, and is projected to reach about 21% in 2050. Yet, the attention to ageing issues hasn’t kept pace with these growing numbers of people living longer lives.

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Issues of ageing touch every family and cut across almost every area of concern and opportunity to governments and civil society—women’s rights, poverty, disability, migration, and climate, to name a few. For example, it is important to remember that as violence against women and girls is on the increase, elder abuse and neglect of older women is pervasive too. 

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Also, many older persons live in poverty because they are denied full access to healthcare, education and employment. And those who do not have children, or a family to help them financially, have no resources to fall back on. As a way to remove these disparities, NGOs in ageing are advocating for a convention to protect the human rights of older persons.

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Why Should Younger Generations Care?

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It has been said that a society is measured by how it treats its older citizens. Younger people have much at stake. They can lead the way to creating a society that reflects their values and how they want to be treated when they get older. It’s not only about their future, achieving equity for all ages means that their parents, grandparents and other relatives will be better able to live in dignity.

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Perhaps most importantly, global action on food insecurity, gender inequities and climate change, to mention just three, needs generational action. Often forgotten by younger people is that older persons want to continue to participate in life, to contribute to their communities, and to help make positive change.

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Growing numbers of older persons are living longer in better health, and now, more than ever, they care deeply about social issues. They are ready to work with younger generations to make a difference. I’ll end the article with a quote from Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Gray Panthers, a social activist organization working for justice and fairness for older persons: “What I dream of is that young and old together will continue to work for a just, humane and peaceful world.”

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Dr. Sandra Timmermann
Un Representative
International Federation on Ageing