Women make up a clear majority of the world’s older persons. The theme for this year’s
observance of the International Day of Older Persons, “Ageing in the New Millennium: Focus on
poverty, older women and development”, underscores the need to recognize the different impact
of ageing on women and men, to ensure full equality between them, and to integrate both a
gender perspective and an age perspective into legislation, policies, programmes and efforts to
At last month’s World Summit, world leaders reaffirmed their determination to realize the
development goals and objectives agreed in the major United Nations conferences and summits,
including the Millennium Development Goals. An important part of this effort will involve the
Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, by which Governments pledged not only to work
for the security of older persons, but also to empower them, so that they can participate fully
in the economic, political and social lives of their societies.
As the number of older persons increases over the next generation, more of the people living in
poverty will be older than 60 years of age. But they will also be ever more involved in
efforts to eradicate poverty. Older persons have already shown their commitment, their
determination and their drive to meet this challenge. Too often, however, they and their
potential contributions are overlooked. Yet we will not eradicate poverty, or achieve our
other goals, without understanding how older persons -- and women in particular -- experience
poverty, and unless we promote the active participation of older people in the design and
implementation of appropriate programmes and activities.
On this International Day of Older Persons, I call upon Governments and all concerned actors to
promote a society for people of all ages, to redouble efforts to implement the provisions of
the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and to work towards changing attitudes,
policies and practices so that, in the twenty-first century, the enormous potential of older
persons may be fulfilled.