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Older adults are subject to discrimination world wide. As the global population ages, this trend will only grow larger. The United Nations has produced a report titled, Strengthening Older People’s Rights: Towards a UN Convention. The goal is to create a UN Convention for older people, therefore helping protect our elders globally.

Find out what you can do to help the cause.

The United Nations (UN) has been putting forward initiatives to aid older persons globally. Non-Governmental Organizations are working to make sure the UN continues this focus.

Recently IAHSA and other civil society organizations sent a letter to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, applauding their efforts and championing the continuation of quality programs.

From the letter: In closing we commend UN DESA formaintaining the rights of older people on the agenda in an era of unprecedented social and economic change. As committed members of civil society we believe that our contribution and partnership is a strength that can facilitate engagement through our extraordinary networks.

The theme of this year’s International Day of Older Persons, “Rights of Older Persons”, is especially apt in this year in which we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Promoting the independence, participation and dignity of older persons has long been on the agenda of the United Nations and is central to implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  In adopting that Plan six years ago at the Second World Assembly on Ageing, UN Member States committed “to eliminating all forms of discrimination, including age discrimination”.  They recognized “that persons, as they age, should enjoy a life of fulfillment, health, security and active participation in the economic, social, cultural and political life of their societies”.  And they determined “to enhance the recognition of the dignity of older persons and to eliminate all forms of neglect, abuse and violence”.

Chair of IAHSA’s International Relations Committee, Dr. William Smith, will attend the meetings tomorrow at the United Nations, ensuring that the voice of ageing service providers is added to the discussion.

The Madrid Plan is an International Plan of Action on Ageing adopted by the United Nations in April 2002, calling for a shift in thinking towards attitudes and policies with regards to individual and population ageing. In the Plan, 159 government representatives agreed to recognise the potential of older people to positively contribute to the development of their societies and to commit governments to address ageing as a key issue.

How are things going? According to a report in The Guardian, there is still room for improvement. As the author points out, “In 2008, ageing issues across the globe remain a low priority for policy development and budget allocation. Governments haven’t yet embraced the ‘enormous potential’ of older people. However, the message has been getting through to the older people themselves.”

Empowered by the solidarity discovered in Madrid, the elderly realise that it’s up to them to use their experience to influence the policy makers. As a participant in Madrid declared: ‘The governments are not the enemies, they are our children. We put them there and we can ask them to help’.

On 12 February, I participated in – The Untapped Resource: Older Persons in the World of Work – a session organized by the United Nation’s NGO Committee on Ageing.  This programme was held as “side event” in conjunction with the 46th Session of the U.N.’s Commission for Social Development (which concludes today in New York).On behalf of IAHSA, Dr. Robyn Stone, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future of Aging Services/IFAS (co-located with IAHSA in Washington, DC) gave the session’s keynote presentation.

Robyn’s presentation – The Geriatric LTC Workforce: Challenges & Opportunities for Older Persons – was extremely well received and a number of her points particularly resonated with me and my colleagues in attendance:

·        We are currently experiencing a great crisis in the recruitment and retention of the geriatric workforce (especially in regards to the frontline caregivers) that will only get worse as population ageing has made long-term care one of the fastest growing sectors in our economy.

·        While a significant percentage of the frontline workforce is already comprised of persons aged 50+, many older informal caregivers become “hooked” on this role and become professional caregivers once their responsibilities to their loved ones end.

·        Many older persons want to continue working in order to keep active and engaged, while other older persons must stay in the workforce out of economic necessity.

Robyn offered the following strategies regarding older persons as part of the long-term care and employment solution:

§         Technologies to help retain quality older staff (e.g. reducing physical burden)§         Work redesign (e.g. job sharing options)§         Retired physicians, nurses, administrators as volunteer mentors/coaches for younger staff§         Retired geriatric professionals as educators in colleges, universities, trade schools§         Retired CNAs, home health and home care aides as trainers for new direct care workers and family caregivers§         Second careers for older persons§         Family caregivers as formal providersIAHSA will keep you posted on our continuing collaborations with Robyn and IFAS on long-term care workforce issues! For more on IFAS’s research visit

Recently Reuters told the story of Aisa, an elderly refugee from the war in Bosnia (1992-1995). She and 74 other elderly refugees live in Slovenia and are just a few of the more then 32 million people in the world uprooted from their homes and forced to start again somewhere else.

Bosnian Refugee in Slovenia

Aisa’s situation highlights the unique challenges of this special needs population in times of crisis. She and the other refugees in the community have found it difficult to assimilate into Slovenian society. The linguistic and cultural barriers make finding a job and meeting new people next to impossible. So they spend time visiting doctors, watching TV and drinking coffee with each other. The Slovenia government has done its best to make them feel welcome. As 84-year-old Osman said, “We have never been better in worse times.”

Groups of elderly refugees are living on the margins of society all across Europe. IAHSA would like to hear stories of how your organization is working with this special population. How might the global community help our elders in times of crisis?

To learn more about the unique situation facing elderly refugees visit the UN High Commission for Refugees. Or visit the Web site Forced Migration Online for a list of reports and research relating to the situation of older refugees.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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