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Serbia's older campaigners won't let it rain on older people's rights

12 Oct 2015

HelpAge's Age Demands Action (ADA) campaign has provided visibility for older people at the national level in Serbia as well as globally. It is this sense of solidarity with older people through their country and across the world that motivates them.

But older people in Serbia also use ADA as an opportunity to be active in their local communities to improve quality of life in their immediate surroundings.

Each year, their sense of responsibility in fighting discrimination and ageism movesm them to participate in ADA. They embrace the role of representing those who do not have opportunity to demand and exercise their rights. Some of this comes down to traditional Serbian stubbornness - they won't be told what they should or shouldn't do at their age or treated as if they are goods that have exceeded their expiry date.

Meeting ministers

Through the whole year of ADA campaigning, we met three ministers and one deputy minister of the Serbian government. The cynic may say these figures only meet us because it brings them easy political points, but we successfully managed to reach concrete agreements with them.

In particular, for the most recent ADA mobilisation on 1 October, older people met two ministers, including the Minister of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs. He invited delegates to speak at the upcoming Belgrade Book Fair at a round table discussion on abuse and discrimination and was receptive to pushing the issue of early dementia diagnosis.

Raising umbrellas to a world without ageism

Older people in Serbia enthusiastically took to producing photographs for this year's ADA Global campaign on October 1.

We received many pictures from throughout Serbia, but we chose to show ones made by self-help groups supported by local Red Cross in the town of Kragujevac.

Serbia's Age Demands Action campaigners raise their umbrellas to a world without ageism

What is so special about these images is that the older people led it from start to finish. They received photography training, arranged the shoot, took the images and even secured the camera itself from the Dutch ambassador who bought the equipment after offering his help to the older people involved.

The selection of photos they sent through was amazing, and they will continue to use their new gadget to photograph their activities in the future.

For those involved, the umbrellas represent the rights of older people across the world, each one a separate country coming together for a UN convention on ageing. The different colours represent the equal rights of men and women, and they went for the bright hues as they do not want to conform to the stereotypes of ageing.

They see the umbrellas as symbolising older people's right to get married, to receive good social and healthcare, and to have access to lifelong learning.

Serbia's Age Demands Action campaigners raise their umbrellas to a world without ageism

For these people, their age is no obstacle to enjoying life. They are active, full of energy and know they are working towards something global and important.

One of the Red Cross volunteers, an 85-year-old woman from the city of Jagodina said: "I can get old but I cannot become outdated. The Red Cross and HelpAge International are stronger when they have people like us representing them, people convinced that they can create a world they want, a world for all generations."

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Natasa Todorovic
Country: Serbia
Job title: Health and Care Program Manager

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