Human Rights breakthrough for older people
EveryAGE Counts welcomes a major breakthrough in the human rights of older people this month, with the UN Human Rights Council passing a resolution to promote and protect the rights of older persons. We also welcome the Australian Government support for the resolution, which especially recognises that ageism is one of the major impediments to the wellbeing of older people and limits our rights to participate in society.
Advocates around the world have been pressing the UN for more than a decade to step up to acknowledge and address ageism and age discrimination as a crucial missing piece in human rights instruments and protections. We thank all those advocates and their organisations, including a number from Australia, who have not wavered in their efforts to have older people included more fully in human rights frameworks.
Unfortunately, we must also acknowledge the role played by the COVID-19 pandemic in highlighting the most damaging forms of ageism and the weakness of generalised human rights arrangements to address them.
Over the past 18 months we have seen: an increase in online and media vilification of older people and the value of older lives; an initial view that the pandemic was less of worry because it was really only a problem for older adults, and consequent blaming of older people for lockdowns and economic impacts of the pandemic; health care rationing that excluded older people from scarce treatment in some countries entirely on the basis of age; as well as brutal quarantine and ‘protective’ policies in many residential aged care facilities.
EveryAGE Counts, along with many others, has continued to call for a new UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. We were especially vocal on this during the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
We argue for a separate Convention as the evidence shows that while all people have rights protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, older people face specific risks (often with ageism as a root cause) that can lead to our human rights being ignored or violated, without recourse.
The UN Human Rights Council resolution recognises these risks. It acknowledges that specific prevention and protections may be required regarding accessibility, education, employment, food security, health care, participation in broader society, and violence, abuse, and neglect.
EveryAGE Counts will continue to be a voice for the human rights of all people and the long overdue recognition and meaningful full inclusion of older people as part of this moral and legal system.