Press Release

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15, 2018

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Geneva / Washington, DC. - On the World Elder Abuse Day that is celebrated on June 15, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Independent Expert of the United Nations on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, urge States and other stakeholders to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the rights of older persons, including their right to freedom from all forms of violence and discrimination based on age.

According to the report World population prospects of United Nations, it is estimated that by the year 2050, the number of people over the age of 60 will double and will triple by 2100, when the population will grow from 962 million people in 2017 to 2100 million in 2050, and 3100 million in the year 2100; in that regard, the growth of this population group is even more accelerated than that of the younger people. Similarly, the Report on Population Aging of the Demographic Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean states that "the group of people of age 60 and over has higher growth rates than the total population, the group of minors and the group of active population" and that "these rates are expected to remain positive until the period 2080-2085." In this sense, older persons are perceived as active people in development, changing the stereotype of old age associated with passivity or inactivity to a paradigm of the older adult as a factor of improvement of society that should be included in the public expenditure agenda, and programs and policies at all levels, which must be adjusted to the progressive increase of the population in the countries of the region.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has observed the situation of older persons in the region, identifying important issues such as violence against them, both in public and private care homes, as well as in the same family, through physical violence , psychological and sexual abuse and neglect. On the other hand, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons of the United Nations has observed that abuse in old age can take many forms, including discrimination in the public sphere, language discrimination, isolation, neglect, abandonment, economic exploitation and restriction of access to basic needs.

The IACHR established in its report on Poverty and Human Rights that older persons subjected to poverty are much more susceptible to different forms of abuse and ill-treatment due to their lack of economic independence and access to essential services such as health and care, housing and social protection. In this sense, the IACHR and the Independent Expert of UN urge States to take measures to give priority to older people and provide them with adequate social protection. In addition, the Commission has particularly noted the situation of LGBTI older people, who face different forms of violence, invisibility and discrimination because of their membership in this age group and their sexual orientation. The Independent Expert emphasizes the need to pay particular attention to older persons facing multiple forms of discrimination, especially older women, persons with disabilities, persons of African descent, individuals belonging to indigenous peoples, persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, rural persons, persons living on the streets, migrants and refugees, among other groups.

Therefore, both the Commission and the United Nations Independent Expert condemn discrimination, abuse, violence and ill-treatment against the elderly, and call on States to take measures to identify and address such situations in all areas, and to adopt public policies aimed at eliminating structural discrimination and guaranteeing their priority attention.

The Commission also calls on the OAS member States to ratify the Inter-American Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Older Persons and to take measures to ensure the enjoyment of other fundamental rights for a dignified life, such as access to economic, social, and cultural rights, community participation, the elimination of assistance approaches in the implementation of public policies for the elderly and the transition towards an approach of inclusion and prioritization of older people in society, ensuring their independence and autonomy based on equality and non-discrimination.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence. The Thematic Unit on Older Persons was created in 2017.

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontificia Unversidad Católica de Chile. Learn more.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67, [email protected]) or write to [email protected].

No. 129/18