Older People’s Rights

Older People’s Rights


There are reported cases every year that millions of older people were suffering and experiencing human rights violations. It is ranging from discrimination and social and political exclusion to abuses in nursing facilities, neglect in humanitarian settings, and denial and rationing of health care. 

The painful part of it is most of these abuses go undocumented and the perpetrators are unpunished of what they have done. 

The rights of older people cannot be and should not be ignored. Older people should be taken good care and should not be experiencing any form of abuse. They are the history and the reasons for the younger generation’s existence.

Do they deserve such abuses? No, instead, they should be taken good care and receive all the love they need and deserve.

According to the Universal Discrimination on Human Rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This equality does not change with age and older men and women have the same rights as people younger than themselves.

Moreover, the rights of older people are already embedded in international human rights conventions on economic, social, civil and political rights.

As a person is growing older, his/ her rights do not change. The only thing that changes is that older women and men are considered to be inherently less valuable to society. At the same time, as people are getting older, they face increasing barriers to their participation, becoming more dependent on others and losing some or all of their personal autonomy. These are the threats to their dignity that can make them more exposed to neglect, abuse and violation of their rights.

Another sad part is, age discrimination and ageism are tolerated across the world. Older women and men are experiencing violations of their rights at family, community and institutional levels. They face very specific threats to their rights in relation to age discrimination.

There are examples that older people are being deprived, such as the access to their health care, employment, property and inheritance rights, access to information and education and the humanitarian responses. They also face particular forms of violence and abuse and particular threats to their rights in care settings and as carers themselves.

Demographic ageing is creating new challenges such as protecting the rights of people living with dementia, of older detainees, and the equitable allocation of resources in health care. Older people’s rights to access to justice, equality before the law and the rights to housing, privacy and private life all require greater attention.

The United Nation established the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG) in 2010. The main purpose of this is to strengthen the protection of older people’s rights through reviewing how the existing instruments address older people’s rights, identify gaps in protection, and explore the feasibility of new instruments.

The HelpAge and other civil society organisations actively engage with this process. Age Demands Action activists and our partner organisations call on their governments to support a convention and participate constructively in the process. To support older people to take part in the OEWG and submit evidence from the programmes around the world to demonstrate why their rights need protecting.

Furthermore, the next major human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations is the proposal on the Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. This proposed treaty will be seeking the remedies to the fragmented human rights structure for older persons and will be focusing on reaffirming critical human rights which are of concern to the Elderly. 

The focus of the treaty will be persons over 60 years of age, which is a growing demographic worldwide due to increased population ageing.

Included in the Human Rights of the Aged are the following indivisible, interdependent and interrelated human rights.

  1. The human right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, shelter and clothing.
  2. The human right to adequate social security, assistance, and protection.
  3. The human right to freedom from discrimination based on age or any other status, in all aspects of life including employment and access to housing, health care, and social services.
  4. The human right to the highest possible standard of health.
  5. The human right to be treated with dignity.
  6. The human right to protection from neglect and all types of physical or mental abuse.
  7. The human right to full and active participation in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life of society.
  8. The human right to full and effective participate in decision-making concerning their well-being.

On the other hand, despite that there are laws protecting the rights of the older people, it still doesn’t cover all of those who are experiencing difficulty in some parts of the world. Recently, it is indisputable that big numbers of older persons face challenges such as discrimination, poverty, and abuse that severely restrict their human rights and their contribution to society . 

The world has not been responding to this quickly and the lack of political will and the prioritization of the special rights of other underprivileged groups have often been at the expense of the case for older people.

Although concerns involving the ageing population are not new, they have traditionally been seen as problems requiring solutions that are functional, piecemeal and reactive.

The Human Rights field has become increasingly specialized and looking for possible solutions to solve the situation of the disadvantaged groups such as the migrant workers, persons with disabilities, children and women who have had their particular needs recognised by the United Nations.

The growing number of people affirming and arguing that it is time that the older persons were also identified as a distinct category and who deserve special care and attention under human rights law.

Nowadays, the Human Rights Watch is setting out the best plan and action to make an impact for change for the older people of today and of the future.


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