Let's ensure citizens' right grow old with dignity
Let’s ensure citizens’ right to grow old with dignity
THE ASIAN AGE. | MALA KAPUR SHANKARDASS
Published : Sep 28, 2018, 6:16 am
Older people must demand legislations and laws, which protect their rights, stop age discrimination and ageism.
Many issues related to ensuring rights of older persons can be put in place if there is a dedicated international protection regime.
It is going to be almost three decades since the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 the International Day for Older Persons (IDOP) on December 14, 1990. Since then a lot has been done by observing this day in different countries in their respective ways as per their policies and programmes to bring focus to the particular needs and challenges faced by older people. Yet older people require more attention, recognition of the essential contribution they make to families, communities and society particularly now and in the immediate future as the population of over 60 years is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030. It is significant that this year across the world IDOP commemoration is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”. With most nations going through demographic transition, resulting in ageing of their population, the commitment towards promoting older persons rights becomes a necessity. India along with China is leading Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons as well as having the greatest and most rapid ageing of the population among the developing nations and therefore imperative that these countries promote the well-being of older people, protect their rights to enjoyment of life and secure their fundamental freedoms towards living with dignity and ensure quality of life.
India is in the process of bringing out a new policy for senior citizens by making the required changes from the earlier 1999 policy to meet the growing and present along with future needs of older people. While the new policy document may be worded differently from the earlier one and will bring greater emphasis on the rights-based approach, there is no denying that older people require continued focus on participation, self fulfilment, independence, care and dignified existence. They must be made part of social and economic development, well integrated into society as recommended by the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing adopted by all the UN member states in 2002 at the World Assembly on Ageing. Older people must become champions of rights to development that covers their daily lives and promotes their interests. It is important to ensure that citizens grow old with dignity and remain productive, active during later years too with full rights. As the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This equality does not change with age but still older people are denied their rights since they are considered to be inherently less valuable to society. This perspective must be dropped as governments and older individuals themselves should work towards ensuring elimination of barriers to their participation in society, reducing their dependency on others and retaining their autonomy.
Pertinently the question arises how can older people bring down the threats to their dignity and vulnerability to neglect, abuse and violation of their rights? Older people must demand legislations and laws, which protect their rights, stop age discrimination and ageism. Often it is seen across nations, developing and developed too, that older persons’ access to healthcare, employment, information, education and to humanitarian concerns, is limited. In India, besides these, provisions for social security and pensions are inadequate with very little attention being paid to universalise them and made appropriate to living index. Emphasis on long-term care, in fact, on a comprehensive geriatric health policy inclusive of prevention, rehabilitation and care of the terminally ill is missing. Will “Modicare” be able to deliver on this aspect? That is yet to be seen. In addition is growing concern regarding increasing financial exploitation of older people across the country. Arbitrary deprivation of their property, theft and expropriation of their land, property and goods is becoming rampant. Fraud, violence against older people by family members as well as by outsiders, growing incidences of abuse and neglect are prevalent as indicated by many studies by experts and organisations working on ageing issues.
Many issues related to ensuring rights of older persons can be put in place if there is a dedicated international protection regime. Efforts to protect the rights of older men and women are scattered and insufficient, with a general lack of comprehensive, targeted legal and institutional frameworks in countries, including India. International obligations to older persons are implicit in most core human rights treaties but explicit references to older persons in binding international human rights instruments are scarce. We need significant advocacy efforts calling for enhanced thinking and action to narrow the gaps in protections available to older people in existing human rights standards. Better protection of the rights of older people will allow societies to better capitalise on the potential that older people represent in terms of key contributions they make to families, communities and society. Clearly a new convention in terms of a binding legal instrument would improve the protection of the rights of older persons.
The writer is an associate professor at Maitreyi College, South Campus, University of Delhi. By training a sociologist, gerontologist, health anddevelopment social scientist.