10 December is Human Rights Day. The theme this year is human rights defenders who work to end discrimination. Photo: HelpAge International
Older women and men in 50 countries around the world spoke up to defend their rights as part of the Age Demands Action campaign in October this year.
Older human rights defenders make great gains
Some of their demands have already been translated into specific government actions and policy changes.
In Ghana, government approved the National Ageing Policy and accelerated registration of poorer older people over 65 for cash transfers.
In Tanzania, four political parties included universal pensions and free healthcare for older people in their manifestos. The Prime Minister also pledged commitment to free healthcare and a universal pension for older people.
In Bolivia, a draft law against abuse was presented by the Ministry of Equal Opportunities after hundreds of activists highlighted rights abuses against older people.
In Cambodia, the government is introducing a health equity fund to provide free healthcare for the poorest older people.
International progress on older people's rights
2010 has also seen a number of significant developments towards better protection of older people's rights at international level.
Two UN Special Rapporteurs (independent experts who address specific areas of human rights) focused specifically on older people's rights.
In June, independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda, highlighted the critical role that non-contributory pensions play in realising older people's right to social security and reducing extreme poverty.
In October, the Human Rights Council tasked UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, to write his next report on older people's right to health.
UN High Commissioner supports older people's rights
On International Day of Older Persons (1 October), Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made a powerful statement about age discrimination and older people's rights.
This was the first statement of its kind from a High Commissioner. It signalled an important recognition that older people's rights have been neglected and demand greater attention.
Major steps to protect older women's rights
Later the same month, the Committee that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted a general recommendation on the protection of older women's rights.
The recommendation provides guidance to states on how to meet their obligations to protect older women's rights. It is also an important tool for civil society and others working on women's and older people's rights.
Towards a convention on the rights of older people?
Finally, in November, in a landmark decision, the UN General Assembly agreed to set up a working group to discuss how to better protect older people's rights. The group will examine existing human rights standards, identify any gaps and discuss the need for new mechanisms.
"There is so much more to be done to ensure older women and men's rights are better protected both in law and, more importantly, in practice in their everyday lives," says Bridget Sleap, HelpAge's rights policy adviser.
"Nonetheless, some very important steps have been taken in 2010 towards this. It is now our responsibility to make sure that this momentum is maintained and that these significant developments are translated into positive action."