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Let’s treat our older persons with respect, compassion

The Human Rights Commission says a society that is devoid of different generations is incomplete and unsustainable. We agree.

The Human Rights Commission is calling for inclusiveness of all age groups as a matter of human rights promotion and protection.

In a statement to mark the International Day of Older Persons, which is observed annually on October 1, the Human Rights Commission stated that it was deeply concerned at the continued discrimination, stigmatisation, denial of food, shelter, clothing, and in some cases, depriving older persons of their lives.

“It must be understood that ageing is a natural product of human development and it must not result in societal myths and superstitions that lead to either social or physical exclusion or elimination of older members of society. Senior citizens should be considered as a blessing and a source of pride for families, communities and the nation at large and effective measures must be taken to prevent and protect them from any form of discrimination, exploitation, abuse or harm,” stated the Human Rights Commission.

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 45/106, designated October 1 the International Day of Older Persons.

This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing – which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing – and endorsed later that year by the United Nations General Assembly.

In 1991, the General Assembly, by resolution 46/91, adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons.

In 2002, the Second World Assembly on Ageing adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the 21st century and to promote the development of a society for all ages.

Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth. With this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required. Just as important however, is the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place. Human rights lie at the core of all efforts in this regard.

Living up to the principle of “Leaving No-One Behind” necessitates the understanding that demography matters for sustainable development and that population dynamics will shape the key developmental challenges that the world is confronting in the 21st century. If our ambition is to build the future we want, we must address the population over 60 which is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030.

The holiday is celebrated by raising awareness about issues affecting the elderly, such as senescence and elder abuse. It is also a day to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. The celebration of International Day of Older Persons is done to create awareness and empathy regarding the well-being of the elderly. People usually celebrate the day by spending time with their grandparents, visiting old age homes and cooking or baking for them. Some children also give greeting cards to their elderly on this day.

Older people have always played a significant role in society, as leaders, caretakers and custodians of tradition. Yet they are also highly vulnerable, with many falling into poverty, becoming disabled or facing discrimination.

As health care improves, the population of older people is growing. Their needs are also growing, as are their contributions to the world.

There’s need to improve our understanding of phenomenon of ageing, and promote the adoption of policies that support older people and meet their needs.

We need to stand against ageism and to promote the development of a society that is hospitable to people of all ages.

The issue of older persons is not taken seriously in Zambia. Whereas we have a youth day holiday, farmers’ day, day of prayer as public holidays, the day of older persons is not recognised as a public holiday in Zambia.

We have 2.33 per of our population above the age of 65 and 2.93 per cent between 55 and 64. How are we, as a nation, treating these senior citizens?

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