On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly (by resolution 45/106) designated 1 October 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 (by resolution 46/91) 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.
Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth. With this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required. Just as important, however, is the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place. Human rights lie at the core of all efforts in this regard.
Living up to the Secretary-General’s guiding principle of “Leaving No-One Behind” necessitates the understanding that demography matters for sustainable development and that population dynamics will shape the key developmental challenges that the world in confronting in the 21st century. If our ambition is to “Build the Future We Want”, we must address the population over 60 which is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030.
The theme of the 2017 commemoration is “Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society”.