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Voices of older people: Raising awareness of ageing

13 Mar 2012

Having had more time to reflect on the discussions at the Commission for Social Development session in New York earlier this month, I am struck by the almost exclusive focus on youth poverty and unemployment.

Very few member states explicitly mentioned older people as a social group and even fewer referred to the implications of population ageing. Surprisingly, it was not the more developed countries, which have huge numbers and proportions of older people discussing population ageing. On the contrary, it was those that still have predominantly young populations and a window of opportunity in front of them.Older people in Colombia campaign for their rights on UN International Day of Older Persons

The Group of 77 and China explicitly referred to population ageing in their first statement: "Population ageing is another issue of global concern that requires concerted, well-focused and forward-looking policies at all levels". Algeria, on behalf of the G77 and China further acknowledged the importance of prioritising issues of ageing and older people by saying that: "older people do not only face discrimination on the basis of age, but are impacted by forms of discrimination, poverty and violence, as well as lack of specific services and resources."

Focus on youth poverty and unemployment

If and when older people are addressed in member states' statements, it is in reference the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Exclusive focus on youth poverty and unemployment is difficult to understand, given how much older people contribute to development, and hence to eradicating poverty among all people, young and old. Secondly, ageing populations will have a substantial impact on the labour market.

Last but not least, youth poverty and unemployment have a huge effect on family relationships. The traditional family support system where children take care of their older parents is not working any more- they are simply too poor or live too far away to be able to provide support to their family.

A need for influencing and lobbying

This lack of attention to older people's issues, and more explicitly their rights, makes it more important to join our efforts towards a successful Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing in August 2012.

The working group will consider the existing international framework of the human rights of older persons and identify possible gaps and how best to address them, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures. A lot of lobbying and influencing is needed to get continuous support for the OEWG as the meetings are currently almost solely attended by by two regions of the world. The Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People is committed to look at how older people's rights can be strengthened globally.

Some of the material that we have received during the last few months in preparation for the "World's Older Persons Report" that we are working on with UNFPA shows how legally binding human rights instruments can contribute to protect older people and improve not only their own quality of life, but also that of their families and communities.

Voices of older people

The report with its current working title "World's Older Persons Report" will be launched across the globe on 1 October 2012. UNFPA is very keen to give publicity and backing to this report and said in a recent meeting that "This is going to be the most important publication on ageing, combining a top-down and bottom-up approach".

It will contain contributions from more than 20 UN agencies, regional commissions and INGOs as well as a "voices of older persons" section drawing on group discussions with older people in 40 countries. It will also include testimonies from older people, graphs, case studies and good practice examples.

The report will be launched at the United Nations in New York but also at grassroots level through our Age Demands Action campaign. Older activists can make use of the report to draw attention to their contributions, concerns and hopes and give their campaign more strength.

Increasing awareness and knowledge

This will be an important way of ensuring media coverage across the world and thus, increasing awareness and knowledge among the public as well as among policymakers at all levels. Working with so many great people who work for and with older people has been an exciting opportunity for me, and I am glad to be involved in this project!

Read more about our presence at CSD 2012.

Read more about our work on older people's rights.

Your comments

elizabeth Frampton

Am a UK pensioner, disabled living in Sheltered accommodation people like myseklf internationally need support, there must be *International co-operation.

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Author profile

Ina Voelcker
Country: Germany
Job title: Global Ageing Officer

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.