International Day of Older Persons

International Day of Older Persons Blog by SI UN Representative Sabine Kinzer

“1 October, the 2016 United Nations International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) will take a stand against ageism by drawing attention to and challenging negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older persons and ageing. In Geneva, this day will be marked by WHO (World Health Organization) and is entitled Taking a Stand Against Ageism. The NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva is participating.

It is not new to hear that many older people face discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis. They feel undervalued, humiliated, invisible, unnecessary… Ageism is all around us – but people who discriminate against other people because of their age, discriminate against themselves. Those perceptions and assumptions, all negative, are among the biggest challenges that need to be dealt with, with our ageing population.

‘Ageism’ is used to describe stereotypes and prejudices held about older people on the grounds of their age. ‘Age discrimination’ is used to describe a behaviour where older people are not treated equally on the grounds of their age. One example of age discrimination is end-of-life care, which older patients do not necessarily receive on the same level as other patients – which in itself is discriminatory.

Older persons are among the most vulnerable and marginalized within society – and their rights are being violated across the world. But can an older person’s performance be predicted? The word ‘old’ does not determine ability. Aging means living. In the 21st century you can no longer forecast physical or mental abilities. Fitness for work, recruitment for a position or training for certain skills are not age related. It is time to shed labels. Describing someone by their age should be as unacceptable as describing them by their gender, race, religion or skin colour. Therefore, ageism can deprive older persons of independence, of choice and dignity, self-esteem and can have a negative impact on their life.

Chronological age should not be assumed to imply being ailing, frail, over the hill… A good start is to honestly ask ourselves: do I have prejudice? Do I discriminate? What is my attitude? Am I or have I ever been ageist? And what can I do and, what can WE do as Soroptimists to take a stand against ageism? How can we boost social inclusion and where do we start?

Existing international human rights mechanisms do not protect older people’s rights well. Older people remain unaware of their rights and so far, states fail to report on how they intend to implement international human rights treaties in relation to them. The number of older persons is rising rapidly worldwide. An effective way to ensure that all these people enjoy their human rights on an equal basis, is an International Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. It would provide the framework for states to commit to and to implement the rights of older people and it would also acknowledge a shift in attitude: Ageism and age discrimination are unacceptable”.

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