International Day of Older Persons 2021: Championing human rights with older people

International Day of Older Persons 2021: Championing human rights with older people

Persons with disabilities are very diverse. EDF fights for the rights of all persons with disabilities, including of older persons with disabilities who face specific challenges due to intersectional discrimination.

Older persons with disabilities face negative and compounded stigma based on their age and disability. Daily they face stereotypes rooted in ageism – the word for age-based discrimination – and ableism – discrimination on the ground of the disability of a person. For example, older persons with disabilities are often seen as objects of care, rather than as active contributors to society. Also, older persons with disabilities are more subject to neglect, abuse and violence, both in institutional settings and when receiving care and support at home.

Older women with disabilities have consistently worse life prospects and outcomes than older women without disabilities and older men with disabilities. Gender roles and expectations often push these women into economic dependency. As a result, older women with disabilities are considerably poorer; are likely to be subject to violence, abuse and neglect; and have higher chances of facing unmet needs and human rights violations.

EDF supporting AGE Platform Europe campaign

On International Day of Older Persons, AGE Platform Europe has launched an awareness campaign under the motto Lead with us. Human rights for all ages. This campaign is based on two fundamental pillars:

  • Human rights do not diminish with age: this includes the right of older persons to access good health. This right, in the context of older age, means thathealth services respond to older persons’ health needs (including mental health needs) and do not discriminate against them. Enjoying the right to good health in older age also requires access to health information and support with giving free and informed consent so that older people’s wishes about their healthcare is respected.
  • Older people are mobilised for human rights; together we have the capacity to address ageism and build a society providing us with the conditions to live full and healthy lives. Older people are experts of their own lives; their meaningful participation is instrumental to the development of legal and policy responses that are adapted to people’s expectations for their later life. Consulting with older people on wishes about their healthcare is at the center of quality care services. But older people’s access to health services is equally critical to secure older people’s good health and subsequently support their participation to society.Health promotion and disease prevention helps older people to remain professionally active and contributes to reducing inequalities; and it supports older people’s participation in social and civic life including through volunteering. The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that society is healthy when everyone is healthy.

EDF emphasized the major challenges faced by older persons with disabilities and called for actions on:

  • Poverty and social exclusion: The struggle to make ends meet is particularly present among older people, and even more so when they have disabilities and/or are women. The cost of living for older persons with disabilities far exceeds that of persons without disabilities, owing to extra costs needed to compensate for the general inaccessibility of society around them.
  • Discrimination in access to disability benefits: Age negatively impacts disability assessment and allocation of disability benefits, resulting in older people with disabilities not being offered the same level of quality or ranges of support as other persons with disabilities.
  • Access to goods and services: Persons with disabilities and older people are still denied right of equal access to most areas of public and private life due to inaccessibility of mainstream goods and services. Lack of a harmonised approach to accessibility and available and affordability of assistive technologies are issues, which the EU should address.

EU actions

 In January 2021, the European Commission published a Green Paper on ageing that highlights the challenges and opportunities of demographic ageing, taking intergenerational solidarity as a key basis. To ensure the human rights of older persons it is fundamental that the Green Paper and the European Disability Rights Strategy for 2021-2030 include the perspectives and rights of older persons with disabilities. Age-sensitive actions should be developed in all relevant initiatives of the European Commission included related to digitalisation, accessibility, victims’ rights, gender equality and women’s rights.

In addition, it is crucial that the European Union and its Member States adopt legislation and targeted actions to combat age and disability-based discrimination, stigma and harassment. Age and disability-based discrimination are still not prohibited by EU law, in the fields of education, health, and access to goods and services, including housing.

Our work

You can find specific information on older persons with disabilities in our Human Rights Report series: