Thirty years ago, on December 14, 1990, the UN General Assembly made October 1 the International Day of Older Persons. The day was observed for the first time throughout the world on October 1, 1991.
The 2020 observance will also promote the commencement of the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030). The initiative will bring together UN experts, civil society, government and the health professions to discuss the five strategic objectives of the Global Strategy and Action plan on Ageing and Health while noting the progress and challenges in their realization. The global strategy is well integrated into the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while ageing issues cut across the 17 goals, especially Goal 3 which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being of all at all ages”.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO) states that: “acting on the strategy, is a means for countries to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensure that every human being regardless of age will have an opportunity to fulfill their potential in dignity and equality” This year has also seen an emergence of COVID-19, that has caused enormous upheaval across the world.
COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the health and rights of older persons in society. While the virus spreads among persons of all ages, older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19.
Efforts to protect older persons should not overlook the diversity of older persons, their resilience and positivity, and the multiple roles they play in society, including as producers, caregivers, volunteers and leaders. We must also recognize their important contributions to the current crisis, including as health workers and care providers. Their contributions underpin our society, before, during and beyond COVID-19. Many actors – States, businesses, international organizations, civil society and community groups and older persons themselves -- have been actively drawing attention to their challenges and needs, delivering services at community level and ensuring that older people’s voices and opinions are heard.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations has given priority to the needs of older persons in its collective preparedness and response action at global, regional and country level. The UN Secretary General’s Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Older Persons underscores the imperative of protecting the human rights of older persons and responding to their specific needs. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA)’s Issue Brief on Older Persons and COVID-19 draws attention to the specific challenges and needs of older persons in the pandemic. The clarion call of COVID is a call to action for citizens of all ages.
HOW TO OBSERVE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS
1. Chat with an older person
If we take the time to get to know an older person, even one right in our own family, we may see them in a new light and learn something about ourselves in the process.
2. Volunteer your time
There's a lot that can be done to make life easier for older people. Find out about organizations in your area that work with the elderly and see what you can do to help.
3. Become an advocate
The United Nations says "enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required." It's important to recognize, as the U.N. also says, "the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society."