In a message commemorating Sunday’s International Day of Older Persons, the UN chief underscored the pervasive issue of ageism in society and the vulnerability of older persons in the face of crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty and climate emergencies.
“Addressing these and other issues is a human rights imperative that will benefit everyone,” he said.
Today’s youth, tomorrow’s older persons
Studies show that number of people aged 65 years or older worldwide is projected to more than double – rising from 761 million in 2021 to 1.6 billion in 2050 – with the number of people aged 80 years or older growing even faster.
This further underscores the urgency of strengthening the protection of the human rights of current and future generations of older persons around the world.
Much to contribute
Mr. Guterres highlighted that older persons can make significant contributions in terms of their knowledge and experience, and have the potential to contribute to peace, sustainable development and the protection of the environment.
“We must ensure their active engagement, full participation, and essential contributions – including through social and workplace policies built around their specific needs,” he said.
He also emphasized the need for intergenerational dialogue and unity as vital components of building more inclusive and age-friendly societies and a resilient world for everyone.
Uphold human rights
Echoing Secretary-General’s call, Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, urged nations to uphold the human rights of older persons as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
“I call on Member States, the United Nations, National Human Rights Institutions, civil society and all relevant stakeholders to make the Universal Declaration a reality for all older persons,” she said.
While the UDHR encompasses the human rights of older persons, Ms. Mahler expressed concern that older individuals often remain invisible in international human rights law due to a lack of recognition of ageism and explicit prohibition of age-based discrimination.
“I encourage Member States to uphold and promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights in pledging for a future of human rights for all older persons, keeping in mind that the youth of today are the older persons of tomorrow.”
Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues, such as human rights of older persons, or country situations.
They serve in their individual capacity. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary.