Human Rights and Aged Persons
What are the Human Rights of Aged Persons?
Human Rights are universal, and civil, political, economic, social and
cultural rights belong to all human beings, including older people. The
Human Rights of the Aged are explicitly set out in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, the International Covenants, the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and other widely
adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations.
The Human Rights at Issue
The Human Rights of the Aged include the following indivisible, interdependent and interrelated human rights:
- The human right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, shelter and clothing.
- The human right to adequate social security, assistance, and protection.
- The human right to freedom from discrimination based on age or any other status, in all aspects of life including employment and access to housing, health care, and social services.
- The human right to the highest possible standard of health.
- The human right to be treated with dignity.
- The human right to protection from neglect and all types of physical or mental abuse.
- The human right to full and active participation in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life of society.
- The human right to full and effective participate in decision-making concerning their well-being.
Governments' Obligations to Ensuring the Human Rights of Aged Persons
What provisions of human right law guarantee the Human Rights of Aged
Includes excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
- "Everyone is entitled to all ... rights and freedoms ... without distinction of any kind.... Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization ... of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity.... Everyone has the right a standard of living adequate for ... health and well-being..., including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of ... sickness, disability, widowhood, old age...."
- --Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 2, 22, and 25
- "... States Parties ... undertake to guarantee that ... rights ... will be exercised without discrimination of any kind.... States Parties ... recognize the right to work.... Equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted ... subject to no considerations other than those of seniority and competence.... States Parties ... recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance...; ... the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living..., including adequate food, clothing and housing...; ...the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger...; ... the right of everyone to the ... highest attainable standard of physical and mental health...."
- --International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
Articles 2, 7, 9, 11, and 12
- "Each State Party ... undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals ... rights ... without distinction of any kind.... No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.... In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical ... experimentation.... All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.... No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home...."
- --International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Articles 2, 7, 10, and 17
- "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular: the right to work...; the right to the same employment opportunities...; ... the right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service...; the right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement,... sickness, invalidity and old age.... States Parties shall ... eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services.... States Parties shall ... eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure ... in particular ... the right ... to benefit directly from social security programmes...; to enjoy adequate living conditions...."
- --Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Articles 11, 12, and 14
Governments' Commitments to Ensuring the Human Rights of Aged Persons
What commitments have governments made to ensuring the realization of the
Human Rights of Aged Persons?
Includes excerpts from the UN General Assembly Proclamation on Ageing, and commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, the World Conference on Women in Beijing, and the Habitat II conference in Istanbul.
- "The General Assembly.... urges the support of national initiatives on ageing ... so that: Appropriate national policies and programmes for the elderly are considered as part of overall development strategies;... Governmental and non-governmental organizations collaborate in the development of primary health care, health promotion and self-help programmes for the elderly; Older persons are viewed as contributors to their societies and not as a burden;... Policies and programmes are developed which respond to the special characteristics, needs and abilities of older women;... Families are supported in providing care...."
- -- UN General Assembly Proclamation on Ageing, para. 2
- "Objectives...: To develop systems of health care as well as systems of economic and social security in old age ... paying special attention to the needs of women; To develop a social support system ... with a view to enhancing the ability of families to take care of elderly people within the family.... Governments should seek to enhance the self-reliance of elderly people to facilitate their continued participation in society. In consultation with elderly people, Governments should ensure that the necessary conditions are developed to enable elderly people to lead self-determined, healthy and productive lives and to make full use of the skills and abilities they have acquired in their lives for the benefit of society.... Governments, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and the private sector, should strengthen formal and informal support systems and safety nets for elderly people and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against elderly people in all countries, paying special attention to the needs of elderly women."
- --Cairo Programme of Action, paras. 6.17, 6.19, and 6.20
- "We heads of State and Government ... will create ... action to: ... Improve the possibility of older persons achieving a better life.... Develop and implement policies to ensure that all people have adequate economic and social protection during ... widowhood, disability and old age."
- --Copenhagen Declaration, para. 26 and Commitment 2
- "The eradication of poverty requires universal access to economic opportunities that will promote sustainable livelihood and basic social services, as well as special efforts to facilitate access to opportunities and services for the disadvantaged.... There is ... an urgent need for: ... Policies ensuring that all people have adequate economic and social protection during ... disability and old age.... Particular efforts should be made to protect older persons, including those with disabilities, by: ... Improving the situation of older persons, in particular in cases where they lack adequate family support.... Ensuring that older persons are able to meet their basic human needs through access to social services and social security, that those in need are assisted, and that older persons are protected from abuse and violence and are treated as a resource and not a burden.... Strengthening measures ... to ensure that retired workers do not fall into poverty...."
- --Copenhagen Programme of Action, paras. 24, 25, and 40
- "With the increase in life expectancy and the growing number of older women, their health concerns require particular attention.... Diseases of ageing and the interrelationships of ageing and disability among women ... need particular attention.... Actions to be taken: ... Develop information, programmes and services to assist women to understand and adapt to changes associated with ageing and to address and treat the health needs of older women.... Discrimination in ... hiring and remuneration, promotion ... continue to restrict employment, economic, professional and other opportunities ... for women.... Actions to be taken: ... Adopt and implement laws against discrimination based on sex in the labour market, especially considering older women workers, hiring and promotion, the extension of employment benefits and social security, and working conditions...."
- --Beijing Platform for Action, paras. 101, 106, and 165
- "Older persons are entitled to lead fulfilling and productive lives and should have opportunities for full participation in their communities and society, and in all decision-making regarding their well-being, especially their shelter needs. Their many contributions to the political, social and economic processes of human settlements should be recognized and valued. Special attention should be given to meeting their evolving housing and mobility needs in order to enable them to continue to lead rewarding lives in their communities.... We ... commit ourselves to ...: Promoting shelter and supporting basic services and facilities for education and health for ... older persons...."
- --Habitat Agenda, paras. 17 and 40
For more information, please contact PDHRE
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education (PDHRE) / NY Office
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street, New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325;