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Sri Lanka: discussing issues and changing attitudes

07 Oct 2011

Mr Gunasekera Mitipola at a focus group discussion in Sri LankaThe most important thing when talking about the issues older people face, is of course older people themselves.

The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA) is a comprehensive action plan for governments, civil society and others for building a society for all ages. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly at the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid in 2002.

Almost ten years after its original inception, HelpAge is conducting an in depth review of this process.

One way we are doing so is talking to hundreds of older people around the world, asking them how and if their lives have changed since MIPAA.

Discussing real life

We have spoken to many people here in Sri Lanka. Here is an interview with Mr Gunasekera Mitipola, which I wanted to share. He lives in rural Sri Lanka and took part in one of the group discussions:

"I am Gunasekera Mitipola. I am the chairperson of the senior citizens committee of Parakkramapura area. We are working closely with HelpAge Sri Lanka to improve the wellbeing of the senior citizens of our village. I appreciate the MIPAA review programme for giving us the chance to share our views and make policy makers improve the lives of older people in Sri Lanka.

"The HelpAge Sri Lanka officers who are working in our area informed us about the MIPAA review programme. They have explained that the objective is to measure the implementation of elders' rights and to identify the difficulties we face by sharing ideas through focus group discussions. I was delighted to hear about this programme and decided to participate and raise my voice on behalf of all elders.

Changing attitudes towards older people

"I didn't have much knowledge on elders rights and age discrimination before the MIPAA review programme. We've never had the chance to discuss international laws relating to elders' rights. We shared our views on age discrimination and rights, our knowledge of policies and laws relating to our rights, income and work, housing and environment, emergencies and much more.

"We understand now that we are responsible, as senior citizens, for changing the attitudes of future generations about older people. We are motivated to stand together with the senior citizen's committee and strengthen our voice.

"As the chairperson of the senior citizens committee of the area, I will use this knowledge to make the committee members and the community aware of elders' rights. I will use this knowledge to change the attitudes of the community towards elders and motivate them to create better lives for all of us."

For more information on the MIPAA review, watch this clip of me talking about the project:  

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Author profile

Sewwandi Abesekara
Country: Sri Lanka
Job title: Rights and Advocacy Advisor

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