Left: A market vendor sells produce at Victoria Market in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Right: Christine Banlog has been a market woman for 22 years. She is now 64, widowed, and raising her three grandchildren in Nyalla, a locality in the city of Douala, Cameroon. UN Women/Ryan Brown
 
António Guterres

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation. It is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on older people in developing countries.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres
 

Safeguard older persons during COVID-19 and beyond

Although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older persons are at a significantly higher risk of mortality and severe disease following infection, with those over 80 years old dying at five times the average rate. An estimated 66% of people aged 70 and over have at least one underlying condition, placing them at increased risk of severe impact from COVID-19.

Older persons may also face age discrimination in decisions on medical care, triage, and life-saving therapies. Global inequalities mean that, already pre-COVID-19, as many as half of older persons in some developing countries did not have access to essential health services. The pandemic may also lead to a scaling back of critical services unrelated to COVID-19, further increasing risks to the lives of older persons.

Some older people face additional vulnerabilities at this time. The virus is not just threatening the lives and safety of older persons, it is also threatening their social networks, their access to health services, their jobs and their pensions.

“No person, young or old, is expendable”, spelled out UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message to launch a policy brief on older persons last month. The impact on health and long-term care services for older persons must recognize and confront the particular challenges they face, including their ability to access medical treatment and care.

“Older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else,” underscored the UN chief. “Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.”

 

COVID-19 pandanmic

Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on older persons

As the world grapples with an unparalleled health crisis, older persons have become one of its more visible victims.

Addressing Elder Abuse

Between 2019 and 2030, the number of persons aged 60 years or over is projected to grow by 38%, from 1 billion to 1.4 billion, globally outnumbering youth, and this increase will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, and recognizing that greater attention needs to be paid to the specific challenges affecting older persons, including in the field of human rights.

Elder abuse is a problem that exists in both developing and developed countries yet is typically underreported globally. Prevalence rates or estimates exist only in selected developed countries — ranging from 1% to 10%. Although the extent of elder mistreatment is unknown, its social and moral significance is obvious. As such, it demands a global multifaceted response, one which focuses on protecting the rights of older persons.

Approaches to define, detect and address elder abuse need to be placed within a cultural context and considered along side culturally specific risk factors. For example, in some traditional societies, older widows are subjected to forced marriages while in others, isolated older women are accused of witchcraft. From a health and social perspectives, unless both primary health care and social service sectors are well equipped to identify and deal with the problem, elder abuse will continue to be underdiagnosed and overlooked.

 

Did you know?

  • In 2017, 1 in 6 older persons were subjected to abuse. With lockdowns and reduced care, violence against older persons is on the rise.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic may significantly lower older persons’ incomes and living standards. Already, less than 20% of older persons of retirement age receiving a pension.
  • Older persons are not just victims. They are also responding. They are health workers, carers and among many essential service providers.

10 Priorities for a Decade of Action on Healthy Ageing

Investing in these 10 PRIORITIES are investments in societies future. A future that gives older people the freedom to benefit from and contribute to sustainable development and to live long and healthy lives.

Global Issues: Ageing

Population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties. Learn more about ageing.

Elderly woman in field with sheep Rural Turkey.

Today, most people are living longer and a significant proportion of the world’s population are older people. By 2050, the world’s population of people over the age of 60 will double. This demographic change has strong implications for sustainable development.

ristobal Gabarron at the inauguration of his sculture Enlightened Universe during United Nations Day in Geneva in 2016.

The Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) is an opportunity to bring together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector for ten years of concerted, catalytic and collaborative action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.