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Remove barriers to older persons' participation in society
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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Columnist: Public Agenda

Remove barriers to older persons' participation in society

On 14th December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated 1st October on 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 UN General Assembly. In 1991, the General Assembly 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.

The theme of the 2013 commemoration, “The future we want: what older persons are saying” has been chosen to draw attention to the efforts of older persons, civil society organisations, United Nations organisations and Member States to place the issue of ageing on the international development agenda.

To mark this year's celebration which falls tomorrow, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon issued a statement and we of Public Agenda identify with its content and therefore publish below unedited for the edification of our readers. Please, read on.

The global community has reached a critical moment in our collective efforts to address poverty and usher in a better future. The 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching while discussions on shaping a vision for development beyond that date are intensifying. In this effort, we must address shifting demographics, especially the needs and concerns of the world's increasing number of older persons.

By 2050, the number of older persons will be twice the number of children in developed countries, and the number of older persons in developing countries is expected to double. This trend will have profound effects on countries and individuals.

There is broad recognition that population ageing presents both a significant opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to benefit from the many contributions older persons make to society. The challenge is to act on this understanding now through the adoption of policies that promote social inclusion and intergenerational solidarity.

We often hear people talk about revering older persons for their wisdom, but older persons also want to have a voice. In our consultation process for the post-2015 development agenda, the United Nations has heard from more than a million people, including many older persons. They are calling for a world where all have food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, and access to basic health services and education. I have included these messages in my vision for a transformative post-2015 development agenda, which is set out in my report, “A Life of Dignity for All.”

On this International Day of Older Persons, I call on countries and people to commit to removing barriers to older persons' full participation in society while protecting their rights and dignity.

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