Lively debate in Copenhagen about a convention for older people!



maria justiniano

 _490_ week, Global Seniors, a Danish network organisation invited Danish senior citizen and development organisations to a seminar to discuss the need for a UN convention on the rights of older people. The meeting was organised in cooperation with HelpAge Affiliate, DaneAge.

We invited HelpAge International to provide the international perspective on the seminar and to talk about the ongoing work around a convention.

The meeting was a great opportunity to raise awareness about issues concerning older people – not only in Denmark – but also globally. At the moment, only a few Danish NGOs are working on, or are interested in the rights of older people in developing countries. It seems like there is no hype around working with older people and therefore the convention is still not on the agenda in Denmark. So we have a job do to!

Burning issues for older Danes

About 50 older people participated in the seminar. They were eager to learn and discuss the convention and its importance.

After presentations by HelpAge, AGE Platform Europe and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, it was really encouraging to follow the lively debate about issues of great concern to the participants.

One burning issue for Danish elderly is digitalising. In Denmark all contact between the citizens and the public offices is becoming digital for example pensions and tax papers as well as contact with the health system.

This means many older people become discouraged and concerned about their situation, even though DaneAge and other organisations offer introductory courses and support.

A spokesperson from the Danish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group (LGBT) also noted that the specific conditions for elder LGBT and their inclusion in a convention had not been discussed in the OEWG. Another important issue to consider as we work to promote the idea of a convention.

Solidarity must be the engine of our efforts

Personally I was challenged by the question “When are you old?” posed by one of the participants at the seminar. We demand a figure to determine that. But is it at 60, 70, 80 or 100 years? My mom used to say that she felt she was old at the age of 50.

Today at 59, I find it hard to image that I will feel “old” in 5 years; a number doesn’t really define when you are old – age is really a social construction.

At times “old age” is constructed during periods with high unemployment rate which make politicians regulate the pension age downwards. At times it goes the other way.

It gives me comfort to think that the “old age hammer” is not hitting on my 65th birthday; I can decide for myself when it makes sense to allow myself to slow down and being old with dignity.

In the meeting, I sensed a strong consensus from the participants, both organisations and older people, that a convention on the rights of older people is necessary. So, how do we proceed? What can we all do to strengthen this process?

I believe that at all levels, solidarity must be the engine of our efforts. And we must be aware, that every effort is parts of a coherent struggle for the convention. So first and foremost, let us speak up for the need of a convention on older people’s rights wherever we are; like we did on the seminar last week!

As Global Seniors we will follow up on the seminar in Denmark in cooperation with HelpAge International and hopefully one day we will have a convention on the rights of older people.

Join the global movement for older people’s rights!

Stop age discrimination! Add your name to our global petition and we’ll use it to push for a UN convention to protect the rights of older people.