AARP Statement on the Occasion of the 22nd annual International Day of Older Persons

Publish Date: October  09,  2012

Statement by Addison Barry Rand
Chief Executive Officer, AARP
2012 International Day of Older Persons
October 1, 2012

As we celebrate the 22nd annual International Day of Older Persons, we also commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Second World United Nations Assembly on Ageing. This year’s theme, Longevity: Shaping the Future, could not be more timely.

Almost 700 million people throughout the world are now age 60 and older. By 2050, this is expected to grow to more than 2 billion—over 20 percent of the world’s population. While developed nations have relatively high proportions of people aged 65 and older, the most rapid increases in the older population are in the developing world. By 2040, today’s developing countries are likely to be home to more than one billion people aged 65 and over—76 percent of the projected world total. The oldest old, those aged 80 and older, are the fastest growing portion of the total population in many countries.

This has tremendous implications for countries throughout the world. The aging of the world’s population is the transformational issue of our time. As people get older, they share many of the same wants and needs, regardless of where they live. They want health and financial security. And they want options for living their lives. They want to be included in their societies and to be able to enjoy the opportunities that life has to offer. So, we must ask ourselves:

• How will we address aging populations?
• How will we ensure long-term health care and economic security for so many?
• How will we ensure that older persons have universal access to the social services they need?
• How will we ensure dignity and independence as we age?
• How will we do all of this without burdening future generations with the costs?
• How will we use our knowledge and experience to create a better world for our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids?
• In short, how will we create a world where people in all societies can age with dignity and purpose?

AARP, as the world’s largest organization dedicated to the interests of older citizens, is committed to using our experience, knowledge and resources to work with other countries to address the global concerns of older people and their families. For example, we are currently collaborating with organizations in a number of countries to promote and develop the concept of “Age-Friendly Cities.”

We are also committed to promoting the human rights of older people, and thus call for a United Nations Human Rights Convention for Older Persons.

When the United Nations adopted the UDHR on December 10, 1948, it set down the basic principles that are at the very heart of the human rights movement. It has fostered remarkable progress in human rights and has inspired international human rights standards, laws and institutions that have improved the lives of millions of people around the world.

Despite this progress, older people’s rights are mostly invisible under international law. The UDHR and other international human rights laws that legally obligate governments to recognize the rights of all people, do not explicitly recognize older people. Only one international rights convention—The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families— mandates against age discrimination.

Commitments to the rights of older people do exist, such as the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA). These commitments, however, are not legally binding and impose only a moral obligation on governments to implement them. As a result, age discrimination and ageism are tolerated across the world, and older people experience discrimination and a violation of their rights at family, community and institutional levels.

Older men and women have the same rights as everyone else. We are all born equal, and this does not change as we grow older. But, aging brings with it particular vulnerabilities to discrimination and rights violations, and the existing human rights instruments are not enough to provide the necessary protection for older people, either in law or in practice. Moreover, as the world’s population ages, greater numbers of people will be affected directly by age discrimination and ageism, thereby increasing pressures on governments and societies to respond. Strengthening older people’s human rights is the single best response.

A UN Human Rights Convention for Older Persons is necessary to ensure that older people can realize their rights. With a new UN convention, and the assistance of a Social Rapporteur, governments can have an explicit legal framework with guidance and support that would enable them to ensure that older people’s rights are realized in our increasingly aging societies.

Longevity is shaping the future of the world. By 2050, older people will outnumber children for the first time in history. If we are to reach our vision of building a society for all ages, where everyone has an opportunity and a right to age with independence, dignity and purpose, we need to address these issues now.