UN honours HelpAge's older activists and global ambassadors


By John McGeachy

In his message for the International Day of Older Persons, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon called on "governments and communities everywhere to provide more opportunities for their ageing populations".

It was therefore only fitting that two older people took to the stage at the Salvation Army Auditorium in New York to speak about campaigning for older people's rights.

Including older people in national policies

HelpAge activist, Kenneth Hemley, 71, spoke on a panel about his role as a campaigner for older people's rights HelpAge activist, Mr Hemley, spoke on a panel about campaigning for older people's rights HelpAge International 2011 On 6 October, Age Demands Action leaders, Kenneth Hemley, 71 from Jamaica and Salvacion Basiano, 67 from the Philippines were invited by the NGO Committee on Ageing to speak on a panel to celebrate the International Day of Older Persons.

They shared their experiences of influencing their country governments to include older people in national policies.

Bethany Brooks of the UN's NGO Committee on Ageing said, "Hearing the voices of older persons who are on the frontlines advocating and fighting for their rights was what we believed would light a fire under all of us. Salvacion and Kenneth did just that. They brought their personal testimony to the table and, in my opinion, that is the best form of inspiration for the cause".

Older people boost to economic and social life

It was also a special day for three HelpAge global ambassadors. Baroness Sally Greengross, Dr Alexandre Kalache and Dr Alexandre Sidorenko, were honoured for their "passionate commitment to shaping society in a positive way for the ageing population and future generations". Amongst the other honourees were former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and Noble Laureate, Elie Wiesel.

Baroness Sally Greengross was honoured for her work as Co-chair of the Alliance for Health & the Future and Executive Chair of the International Longevity Centre. Speaking of the honour, Sally says:

"I am deeply honoured to have been given this award by the NGO Committee.  It is important that the work of the Committee and the member organisations involved is recognised more widely in seeking to ensure that the quality of life of older people across the world is not lessened by discrimination and denial of their human rights when our older people are such a potential boost to our economic and social life in every country of the world".

So much remains to be done

Dr Alexandre Kalache who led the World Health Organization's Ageing and Life Course programme  between 1995 and 2007 was also honoured at the reception.

Although pleased to receive the honour, Dr Kalache said he would rather have waited until a convention on the rights of older people had been realised:

"I feel honoured and pleased - but I think that the award was given prematurely: there is still so much to be done and I would have rather waited longer to ensure that our common objective to have a convention on the rights of older people will have been accomplished. Only then, I would fully deserve the privilege of getting this wonderful recognition!"

Add your voice to call for a convention on the rights of older people by signing our global petition

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