Current fiscal crisis must not erode social protections for elderly, Ban warns

30 September 2011

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, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned ahead of events for the day marking this growing segment of the world’s population.

“I call on governments and communities everywhere to provide more opportunities for their ageing populations,” he said in a message to mark tomorrow’s International Day of Older Persons, stressing that independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity underpin the human rights of older persons.

Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60, and by 2050 this number will rise to about two billion, or over 20 per cent of the world’s population.

He noted that nearly two thirds of older persons live in developing countries, yet older people are still largely excluded from the wider global, regional and national development agendas.

“At a time when the international community is preparing to take stock of sustainable development and is looking to forge a development agenda for the future, it is important that the needs and contributions of older persons become a bigger part of the picture,” he said.

“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.”

He noted that progress had 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 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 in a message prepared for the Day. “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.”

Calling for empowering older persons to exercise their rights, in particular the right to health, Mr. 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.”


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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

On International Day, Ban urges governments to enhance support for older persons

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged governments to institute measures to provide greater support to a growing number of older people, saying they played an important role in society as leaders, caregivers and volunteers, yet they faced discrimination, neglect and abuse.