Sat 02 May 2020:
According to the United Nations, people over 80 years of age are dying of COVID-19 at five times the rate of people under 80.
Elderly parents are no longer being visited by their children, residential care homes are being shunned and regulated on a heightened basis by authorities.
In Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, people over 60 years of age are banned from attending shopping malls which have recently re-opened after several weeks of being shut down. People over sixty are also prohibited from restaurants in Dubai, which have similarly re-opened.
The shunning of the elderly has prompted the launch on Friday of an initiative by the UN to address these and many other challenges faced by the elderly, during and after the biggest public health crisis to hit the world in a century.
Against the backdrop of age discrimination, autonomy for older people, disparities in social protection and healthcare – as well as a lack of decision-making power – for older persons, the crisis is “exacerbating existing human rights protection gaps and socio-economic challenges,” Guterres said.
“We need to stand up now for older person’s rights”, the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons Rosa Kornfeld-Matte had said. “Pervasive gerontophobia, the fear of age-related self-degeneration and death, nurtures prejudice against older people, discrimination and ultimately the denial of human rights in older age.”
Digital technology must be improved to mitigate movement restrictions that can disrupt essential care, support and social inclusion for older persons.
“That is vital to older people who may face great suffering and isolation under lockdowns and other restrictions,” said Guterres.
Beyond the pandemic’s immediate health impact, it is putting older people at “greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation” he said, most likely causing “a particularly devastating impact” on those in developing countries where public health care and social protection services will likely be overwhelmed by the virus.
“To get through this pandemic together, we need a surge in global and national solidarity and the contributions of all members of society, including older people,” he said.
This requires appropriate legislation at the national level, a push toward an international convention on the human rights of older persons at the global level, and sustainable investment in health, care and social protection systems that ensure the dignity and right of older persons.
“As we look to recover better, we will need ambition and vision to build more inclusive, sustainable and age-friendly societies that are fit for the future”, concluded the Secretary-General.
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