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UN expert: Eliminate ageism and age discrimination

Ms Claudia Mahler, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, presented her latest report to the 48th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Ms Mahler’s report devoted a lot of attention to ageism, a form of “discrimination against older persons based on their age or on a perception that a person is “old””. Ageism is a highly spread phenomenon, also discussed in the very first UN Global Report on Ageism.

According to Mahler, ageism and age discrimination profoundly shape the lives of older persons, who can experience violence, abuse and neglect in the healthcare sector, as well as inadequate services and relief. Besides, ageism aggravates other forms of inequalities based on gender, disability, gender and sexual identity, ethnic origin, and other grounds. “To combat ageism, we must shift our mindsets and challenge the narrative of older people as frail, dependent and vulnerable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, speaking at a side event discussing the report and its recommendations.

The report highlights the need to adopt a human rights approach to shift from the welfare paradigm, “to one recognising older persons as rights bearers’ that have the same guarantees of dignity, equality, participation, autonomy and independence during their entire life course.” To that end, Mahler calls for a comprehensive international treaty on the human rights of older persons which would provide standards and guidance for states on how to ‘practically and meaningfully promote, fulfil and protect the human rights of older persons.’ The voices, perspectives and expertise of older people also need to be incorporated in policymaking, particularly where they will be most affected, added Michelle Bachelet. “More inclusive, equitable and age-friendly societies will be more resilient, sustainable, secure and fair”, she concluded.