World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2012: Older activists fight for better rights


By Rachel Trayner and Sarah Marzouk

15 June marks the first officially recognised, "United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day" (WEAAD). Millions of people around the world are holding events to raise awareness of a growing and global injustice. Elder abuse – whether physical, psychological, financial, sexual or a form of neglect – is a violation of older people's human rights. An ADA campaigner in Jamaica demands an end to elder abuse. An ADA campaigner in Jamaica demands an end to elder abuse. (C) HelpAge International

Calling on governments to end discrimination

Older people in 18 countries across the world, are marking the day by coming together as part of Age Demands Action for Rights (ADA).

ADA for Rights is a global campaign calling on governments to end discrimination by pledging their support for high level talks at the UN, which could lead to a new international convention on the rights of older people.

In Kyrgyzstan for example, there will be a photo exhibition to raise awareness of abuse. A public debate will be held in Serbia to discuss the risks and ways of preventing abuse, discrimination and neglect of older people. There will be marches in Haiti, Ecuador and Kenya, and elder abuse will feature on national television in Peru and on community radio in Thailand.

Mama Rhoda who is marching for older people's rights in Kenya has been an Age Demands Action activist since 2009. She said: "ADA has made me an ambassador for older people. It has taught me that older people have rights which should be respected by all."

Lack of government attention

Older people's rights are protected under international human rights law, but specific reference to them is rare. The existing commitments are not enshrined in human rights treaties and governments have no legal obligation to implement them.

As a result, governments pay little attention to older people's rights. Most governments do not see older people as rights holders with responsibilities, but only as recipients of welfare. This needs to change.

UN convention on older people's rights

A new UN convention on the rights of older people is necessary to bring about this change. It would provide governments with a legal framework, guidance and support to help them protect older people's rights.

A convention would:

  • Oblige governments to adopt non-discriminatory laws and allocate their budget more fairly across age groups.
  • Require governments to collect data broken down by age to inform policy decisions.
  • Encourage governments to design age-sensitive programmes, and train service providers, for example, health workers, on ageing issues.
  • Encourage governments to take a stand against discrimination.
  • Provide a system to monitor government action and hold them to account.

Show your support: Sign the petition!

Over the past five years, campaigners around the world have been collecting signatures for the Age Demands Action petition which supports a UN convention on older people's rights. Over 32,000 people from more than 130 countries have signed the petition so far and we are hoping to reach 50,000 by the end of July. An ADA supporter in Pakistan signs the petition. An ADA supporter in Pakistan signs the petition calling for a UN convention on rights of older people. (C) HelpAge International

Richard Blewitt, HelpAge CEO said:

"Our rights do not change as we grow older. Sadly, what does change is that older women and men are considered to be inherently less valuable to society. ADA for Rights is sending a clear message that campaigners think the rights of older people are important enough to protect and promote.

"I hope as many people as possible sign our petition so that governments know they must take part in talks, which could pave the way for a convention. Without their contribution, there is a danger older people will be yet again left behind. If that happens, governments are neglecting to challenge discrimination that older people suffer on a daily basis."

Sign our petition calling for a UN convention on rights of older people.

Read more about Age Demands Action for Rights.

Post a comment | 20 comments

Comments submitted for this page

  • Kris (01 February 2015)

    I am a 64 year old Canadian woman and over the years have seen a dreadful erosion in the level of respect the younger generation shows for their elders - it is bad in Canada and DREADFUL in the US. For GoDaddy to run an ad where they show a woman wakening a frail elderly female - pointing her finger in her face and YELLING " Stick it " lacks human dignity and shows profound lack of respect for older people. Then it gets even worse - when she derides the framed photo of a deceased grandfather.

  • Sailesh Mishra (09 June 2014)

    We at Silver Inning Foundation support Elder Right in all walk of life.


    Old age is a virtue and desirable quality for all mankind. We all aspire to grow old and shall one day become elderly yet, the elderly are disdained, and abandoned in societies of Africa and many others. The elderly are facing extreme poverty and violence and their population are on the increase. Governments and leaders in Africa, Nigeria to be precised have not done much in area of care and support. There are inadquate policies and where they exist, they are poorly implemented. The United Nation must prevail on leaders and government to reverse the ugly trend because old age is future. Thank you. Oruga Matthew Oghenmano

  • Balvir Dhillon (30 December 2013)

    Elder citizens have rights which must be followed and their wishes adhered to by Government and Families. Elders are and can become very vulnerable and it is important that their views and voice is heard load and clear. They deserve the respect, the protection as those of young children. It is our humanistic duties to provide for and protect our elders and shower them with love and attention, and not give them pain and grief. They are very precious and must be protected as the treasure that cannot be replaced. To all our elders May God Bless you one and all.

  • Bindu.B (07 December 2013)

    According to point of view, most of the abuses are domestic abuses, it is mainly from spouse or from their children. But our elders are not ready to make any complaints against them. This is situation our elders are experiencing.

  • Bindu.B (07 December 2013)

    This article was informative. Take some steps to prevent elder abuses. I would like to share my experience on elder abuse.

  • Susan Easen (20 September 2013)

    The Elderly have given so much to this country and they deserve our care and respect at the very least.

  • Mrs Gloria Phillips-Smith (13 September 2013)

    living and working on in the sister islands state of Grenada, I am concerned that the plight of older citizens are not being addressed

  • Kayla Edwards (04 September 2013)


  • Marion Pitchacaren (17 August 2013)

    I care about the elderly especially the vunerable who need a voice

  • ayantunji mary (09 July 2013)

    I want to know details on the rights of the aged

  • puspa bhattarai (12 June 2013)

    it is very good to know about it but in my beloved country Nepal there is so many problem of old aged people at the rural areas and it's direct or indirectly affect to the senior citizen mostly awareness of their rights very few organization ( Government and non Government ) to work with them so we are try our best .

  • ORUGA MATTHEW (07 June 2013)

    The population of the elderly is on the increase, so also is their problems and challenges. Their abuse and neglect is common and widespread today. Africa, Nigeria. Please let us join force to stop elder abuse wherever we are. The elderly gave so much and without prejudice to nurture the present generation and leaders, yet the political will to address their problems and challenges is missing in many societies.

    Old age is a virtue and desirable quality for all mankind. Let us help the elderly to stay positive and active. One day we shall also be older adult.

  • ORUGA MATTHEW (21 October 2012)

    The elderly deserve awesome reward, love and respect (honour) and, not abuse. They have invested time, energy and resources to build homes, communities and nations,and making us what we are they deserve to be celebrated and not to be denied and neglected. The elderly are our future self, a custodian of history,a heritage to treasure. Their mentoring services is put on due largely to neglect and abuses. Adequate attention and care must be given to them. In Nigeria the elderly are not remembered and pension monies are therefore looted by persons in place of authority.

  • Annie Penn (30 September 2012)

    I am so tired of people ignoring the plight of the elderly. I have written a fictional account of the abuse that happens almost daily. Why did I do this? Well I just want to scare the living daylights out of those who just dump their parents in these places. No one seems interested in my book. I don't feel bad, it just makes me want tro work harder at getting it out there where hopefully it can achieve what I set out for it to achieve. Watching Youtube drive me to tears. Wake up world! Please do not publish my real name. Annie Penn is my pen name. This is for safety reasons

  • Jason Lacca (18 September 2012)

    It is wrong for the elderly to be discriminated by their age. They should have the same exact rights as the rest of us!

  • Mala Kapur Shankardass (24 August 2012)

    Give recognition to older people as a precious resource in development

  • Dr R.K.Gupta (14 July 2012)

    Awareness about rights and privileges to elders is important but more than that strict action against those who first call their elder parents as permanent residents and after a year or so start harassing them, torturing them etc. is most essential. Elderly parents should know whom to report their woes is very essential.

  • Rajinder Kumar Gupta (14 July 2012)

    Elder abuse should be dealt with fast when reported. Where to report? List of such Govt departments shuld be easily available. This is most urgent need of the hour.

  • edward mc laughlin (12 July 2012)

    i am resident in nursing home constantly receiving abuse and intimidated by all staff.
    government has to stop this going on.

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