Older people call for a convention on the rights of older people

UN Open Ended Working Group on Ageing, New York, meeting from 14-16 July

This week, (14-16 July), older people around the world are calling for a convention on the rights of older people, as their governments convene at the UN.

“In Zambia, older people suffer discrimination in land allocation, access to mortgages and loans,” said Mr Mwiche Vincent Siwale, 81, a founder member of the Senior Citizens Association of Zambia and a former civil servant.

“They are subjected to degrading and humiliating conduct, repeated insults, ridicule and name calling. Accusations of witchcraft cause them emotional pain and, simply because they have grey hair and red eyes, they may be torched or axed to death,” he said. “The time has come for a convention on the rights of older persons, so that governments, especially African governments, can take action to protect older people.”

With numbers of people aged 60 and over rising rapidly worldwide, HelpAge believes that a new international convention on the rights of older people is the most effective way to ensure that all people, now and in the future, enjoy their human rights in older age on an equal basis with others.

“Older people’s rights remain invisible in the international human rights system,” said Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Advisor with HelpAge International. “Only four out of more than 38,000 recommendations in the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review have specifically addressed discrimination against older people [1].

“A new convention will change this. And this week in New York, those governments supporting the convention will outline exactly what they want to see in it, what rights need to be protected and what governments need to do to make this happen,” she added.

“Approval of the Convention by the Inter-American region [2] four weeks ago, strengthens the case for a UN convention on the rights of older people, so that all of us, no matter where we live, enjoy the same protection of our human rights in older age," added Sleap.

In Vietnam, Pham Tuyet Nhung, 64, from the Vietnam Association of the Elderly, representing 8.4 million members, will be among several older people meeting government representatives in New York, making interventions at the UN Open Ended Working Group on Ageing sessions and speaking at an event on older people’s experiences of ageism and discrimination. She said a convention would make a huge difference to the lives of older people in her country.

“An international convention on the rights of older people would provide a legal framework for member states to commit to and implement, meaning that the rights of older people will be much better protected,” she said.

In Pakistan, Khalid Saeed, 68, a retired psychology professor from Multan, who will also be attending the New York session, is keen to flesh out strategies older people can use to help them become productive and proactive citizens.

“There is a dire need to identify the problems of older people all over the world and to make proper recommendations for their empowerment,” he said.

Esther Wamera, 75, a retired banker from Kenya, who now works for All Saints Cathedral Senior Citizen Association, has led activists to various ministries advocating for the rights of the elderly.

“Older people are not taken care of properly. Doctors don’t want to touch them. They are mostly given painkillers rather than appropriate medication,” she said.

“With a convention, governments and regional agencies will be obliged to ratify our global call for older people to be brought to the centre of government policy, provided for in budgetary allocations and factored into all social issues,” she added.

Toby Porter, Chief Executive of HelpAge International said: “Older people themselves have been at the heart of this process, through Age Demands Action, last year delivering their petition signed by 300,000 people, to Mateo Estrémé, the chair of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing. It is critical that older people have an opportunity to be part of and influence a process that is about their human rights.”

17 HelpAge affiliates [3] are accredited to the OEWG and several older people are being funded to participate in the session by the German Foreign Ministry and HelpAge Deutschland.


Notes to Editors:

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. Our work is strengthened through our global network of like-minded organisations – the only one of its kind in the world.

About the UN Open Ended Working Group on Ageing

The Open Ended Working Group on Ageing is the UN process where the need for a new international convention on the rights of older people is being discussed by UN Member States.

HelpAge International has been engaged in the OEWG since its first session in 2011. This is the sixth session.

Available for interview:

Bridget Sleap, Senior Rights Advisor with HelpAge International will be available for interview in New York along with older activists.

Photos and bios:


Media Contacts

Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, +44 (0) 20 7148 7623 sarah.gillam@helpage.org Skype: sarah.gillam.hai


[1] UPR Database, Search under key words: older persons, elderly, old age, older people, Visited 29th June 2015, http://www.upr-info.org/database/

[2] Organization of American States press release http://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=E-198/15

[3] HelpAge International affiliates accredited with the Open Ended Working Group

1.(Age UK)
2.Age Action Ireland
3. Coalition of Services for the Elderly
4. Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia
5. DaneAge
6. Fiji Council of Social Services
7. HelpAge India
8. HelpAge Kenya
9. HelpAge Sri Lanka
10. Palestine Center for Communications and Development Strategies
11. Red Cross of Serbia
12. Regional Centre for the Welfare of Ageing persons in Cameroon
13. Regional Public Foundation Assistance for the Elderly “Dobroe Delo”
14. Senior Citizens Association of Zambia
15. Uganda Reach the Aged association
16. Vietnam Association for the Elderly
17. Zivot 90

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