Older persons are the repository of their societies' histories

01Oct 2020
Editor
The Guardian
Older persons are the repository of their societies' histories

In its proclamation on aging, the United Nations General Assembly decided to declare 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons. The proclamation was launched on 1 October 1998, the International Day of Older Persons, by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Worldwide, within the next generations, the proportion of the population aged 60 and over will increase from one in four, bringing about significant social, economic and spiritual change.  The proclamation was meant to draw attention to the recognition of humanity's demographic coming of age and the promise it holds for maturing attitudes and capabilities in social, economic, cultural and spiritual undertakings, not least for global peace and development in the next century.

Numerous events take place within the UN and in member countries to mark the event.

With these transformations in mind, the UN chose "towards a society for All Ages" to serve as the theme for IYOP. Throughout the year, participating countries will foster awareness of seniors' roles in society and the need for intergenerational respect and support, emphasising the fact that older persons are the repository of their societies' histories.  

The theme of this International Year, however - Towards a Society for All Ages - elicits the full engagement of all segments of society. It calls for "solidarity", "respect" and "exchanges" between generations.  It calls for opportunities to share between the young and the not so young such that each may learn from the other.  It is therefore important that older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help; older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other income-generating opportunities; older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.

Also  older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programmes; older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities;older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.

And finally older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations and be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.

The work of many UN Agencies and programmes has direct connections with aging issues and will reflect IYOP priorities. That is certainly true for the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  

In 1992 the United Nations General Assembly decided, "in recognition of humanity’s demographic coming of age and the promise it holds for maturing attitudes and capabilities in social, economic, cultural and spiritual undertakings, not least for global peace and development in the next century"   to declare 1999 as the International Year of Older Persons (IYOP). The theme of this year is “Towards a Society for All Ages.”  

At the launching ceremony, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called upon policy-makers to recognise the importance of population ageing and put this recognition into action.  In 1999, there were some 580 million people aged 60 years and over in the world.  By 2020, this number is estimated to pass over the 1 billion mark. By that time, over 700 million older people will live in developing countries alone. It was therefore indispensable to bring ageing into the development agenda, she emphasized.  

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