The United Nations is marking the International Day of Older Persons by encouraging countries to draw attention to and challenge negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and ageing, and to enable older persons to realize their potential to build a life of dignity and human rights.
“While older persons are often said to enjoy particular respect, the reality is that too many societies limit them […] The marginalization and devaluing of older persons takes a heavy toll,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the International Day, marked annually on 1 October.
“Ending ageism and securing the human rights of older persons is an ethical and practical imperative,” said the UN chief, urging for measures to address this violation of human rights as well as calling for greater legal guarantees of equality for older persons to prevent ageism from resulting in discriminatory policies, laws and treatment.
People aged 60 and older accounted for 12.3 per cent of global population in 2015, and by 2050, that number will rise to almost 22 per cent, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
The agency notes that most of the projected growth of the older population is expected to take place in developing countries. Asia is home to more than half of the world's 901 million older persons, with 508 million people aged 60 or over. Another 177 million older persons reside in Europe, 75 million in North America, 71 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 64 million in Africa and six million in Oceania.
Therefore, “more efforts are needed to minimize lifelong inequalities and improve the life conditions of older people,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, in a statement on the transformative force of population ageing.
Strongly agreeing with this year's theme – 'Take a Stand against Ageism'– Mr. Osotimehin said UNFPA believes that reducing lifelong inequalities and embracing the contributions of older people offer tremendous prospects for development.
“UNFPA continues to help countries respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing by promoting policy dialogue and supporting training, research and data collection disaggregated by age and sex,” he said.
Also to mark the Day, new analysis released by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals a trend of widespread negative or ageist attitudes towards older people, which also negatively affect older people's physical and mental health.
“Most people are completely unaware of the subconscious stereotypes they hold about older people," said John Beard, WHO Director of Ageing and Life Course, in a news release stressing that “it is time to stop defining people by their age. It will result in more prosperous, equitable and healthier societies.”
Other newly published research indicated that negative attitudes about ageing and older people also have significant consequences for the physical and mental health of older adults.
“Society will benefit from this ageing population if we all age more healthily,” said Alana Officer, WHO Coordinator of Ageing and Life Course. “But to do that, we must stamp out ageist prejudices,” she underscored.