World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Activists call for UN convention on older people's rights


By Sarah Gillam

Today, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, activists in 40 countries are taking part in our Age Demands Action for Rights campaign to call for a UN convention on the rights of older people. To mark this day, we also reveal research which highlights that violence against older people is a global issue. Older campaigners in Bolivia campaign for ADA last year. Older campaigners in Bolivia demands their rights. (c) HelpAge International

A review of 18 research surveys covering 15 countries over the last seven years showed that 11-83% of older people reported being subjected to a variety of types of abuse and violence.

Shocking statistics of elder abuse

Even though more data is needed on this issue, some shocking statistics from our review include:

  • In Bangladesh, 88% of older people were mentally abused, 83% neglected, 54% economically abused and 40% physically abused. Of the physically abused, 54% were women and 45% were men.
  • In Mozambique, 17% of older women and 20% of older men surveyed had experienced physical abuse.
  • In Peru, 76% of older men and 61% of older women surveyed had experienced theft, deception, eviction or other actions involving money or property.

"These findings reaffirm the need for a convention on the rights of older people," said Bridget Sleap, HelpAge's Senior Rights Policy Advisor.

"A new convention would set standards prohibiting violence against older men and women that currently don't exist in international human rights law. It would draw attention to this widespread violence that is currently being ignored or denied in many places."

The call for a UN Convention

Around the world, campaigners taking part in Age Demands Action for Rights will be urging their governments to support a UN convention on the rights of older people and attend the UN Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) when it meets in New York this July.

Over 200,000 people have already signed our petition calling for a convention, but we need to hit our target of 300,000 signatures by 1 July so we can hand over the petition at the OEWGA. This will ensure governments and the international community are listening to older people.

If you support older people's rights and a UN convention to protect them, please sign the petition! You can also share the petition on social media and ask your friends and family to sign too.

Action around the world

Other than meeting their decision makers, campaigners in 40 countries are taking part in ADA for Rights through a huge a variety of actions. For example:

  • Older people in Kyrgyzstan will march through the capital, Bishkek.
  • In Peru, a flyer on elder abuse and a UN convention will be distributed across the nation.
  • A play on violence against older people will be presented in schools and markets in Mozambique by members of older people's association.

A HelpAge project in Mozambique which used plays and local radio to raise awareness of violence against older women before has been very successful. It reported reductions of 7.6% of physical abuse and a 6.9% decrease in verbal abuse from baseline study levels.

Rita, who was involved in the project said: "Verbal and physical abuse by young people has reduced. People that took part in discussions after the plays were on the radio all denounced violence against older women which showed that the message was getting through."

To stand with Rita against elder abuse, please sign our petition calling for a convention for the rights of older people.

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