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International Day of Older Persons

Prapti Gautam                                                                                                                                  8 Oct. 2018

International Day of Older Persons

The Day for Older Persons (IDOP), a day designated by the UN in 14th of December 1990 was celebrated globally on 1 Oct. 2018. It was observed for the first time on 1st October, 1991 to make people aware about the issues affecting elders as well as to appreciate and value their significant contribution towards the society. This day is celebrated every year throughout the world including Nepal where issues affecting senior citizens are raised, public awareness is built by all the organizations working for ageing population in order to create and sustain suitable environment for elderly.

Each year different theme is chosen for the celebration so that people can realize the magnitude and priority placed for older persons. For 2018 International Day for Older People (IDOP) campaign goes under a theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions” with the following aims:

1) Promote the rights enshrined in the Declaration from the second World Conference on Ageing and what it means in the daily lives of older persons;

2) Raise the visibility of senior citizen as participating members of society committed to improving the enjoyment of human rights in many areas of life and not just those that affect them  immediately;

3) Reflect on progress and challenges in ensuring full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons; and

4) Engage broad audience across the world and mobilize people for human rights at all stages of life.

Observing mentioned themes; one can realize that all persons should have their rightful position at old age without any discrimination in the society as well as their roles and contributions made during young days shouldn’t be ignored. Older people’s rights matters more these days because the demographic revolution is underway all over the world. In 2017 almost 962 million people were 60 above and it is projected to reach nearly 1.4 billion by 2030 and expected to double again by 2050. For the first time in human history, the number of people over 60 will exceed the number of children. Moreover, the increase rate of older people is the highest and most rapid in the developing countries, and Asia has the largest share. According to census of 2001, Nepal had 6.5% of elderly population (60+) that reached up to 8.31% in 2011 and it is escalating at the rate of 3.5%.

Women, children and people with disabilities are all protected through special international conventions but no such convention exists for senior citizen despite their high vulnerability. In our country Nepal there is a huge gap that needs to be bridged to support older people within existing human rights standards. There are no senior citizens specific human rights to address the multiple forms of discrimination -elder abuse, neglect, palliative care and so on. These concerns are not adequately addressed in existing human right standard.

In recent years, elder abuse is in rise and most of them are experienced in their own homes and in nursing homes/day care centers. Many elders who face abuse are not even allowed to make any decision about their personal life such as money matters, property,  use of old age allowance, health care, food , clothing, to name a few.

There are only few countries that collect the data on violation of the rights of older people where Nepal is far behind in these matters. This kind of violation continues as there is lack of information regarding the prevalence of these abuses. This may be because older people are seen as a charity-recipient rather than holders of their own human rights. For that reason, older people’s rights are exceptionally neglected in the current human rights framework. Thus, to bridge the huge gap all organizations working for welfare of senior citizens comes together every year on October 1st and organize various programmes that supports, protect and promote older rights through demonstration of promotional material at schools, institution, offices and public notice boards so that people will be encouraged about their roles and responsibility towards their lives.

It can be concluded that senior citizens play an important role in contributing for betterment of the society through their experiences and wisdom. Strong and protected older rights will enable the nation and the world to become strong as a whole. Hence, human rights-based approach must be adopted in order to change people’s perception from a charity-recipient to a rights holder.