Human Rights of Older Persons – an Emerging Concern

The global population of people aged 60 years and older is expected to more than double, from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion in 2025. The share of older persons (aged 60 years or older) in the total population increased from 9 per cent in 1994 to 12 per cent in 2014, and is expected to reach 21 per cent by 2050.

The fastest increase will take place in Africa which is projected to reach 215 million persons aged 60 or older by 2050.

The number of older persons in the Asia-pacific region will triple in the next 40 years, from 414 million in 2010 to 1.25 billion by 2050

Europe will continue to have the oldest population in the world, with a proportion of older persons that is projected to increase to 34 per cent in 2050.

In May 2014, the Human Rights Council appointed Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte from Chile as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons. The first report of the independent expert was presented to the 27th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva in September.

Elder abuse or neglect can take many forms, from domestic and family violence, both physical and psychological, where the perpetrators are a spouse or children, to institutional abuse from caregivers. It is frequently related to financial exploitation involving deception or coercion.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says that abuse is under-reported by as much as 80 percent.

Violence and abuse against elderly women, ranging from sexual violence, property grabbing, financial abuse and, increasingly, extreme violence against older women accused of witchcraft, is an issue of particular concern.

Throughout history, women described as witches have been persecuted, tortured and murdered but according to a UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs report on aging, that practice continues today.

Witchcraft accusations that are used to justify extreme violence against older women are reported in 41 African and Asian countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, India, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal and Tanzania. Older widows are often those most at risk.

December 10th was Human Rights Day

– Edmund Rice International Newsletter December 2014

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