The composition of the world’s population has changed considerably in recent decades. Between 1950 and 2010, life expectancy in the world increased from 46 to 68 years and is expected to increase to 81 by the end of this year. It should be noted that women currently outnumber men by an estimated 66 million among those aged 60 and over. Among those aged 80 years and over, women are almost twice as numerous as men, and among women aged four to five times more numerous than men. For the first time in the history of mankind, by 2050 there will be more people over 60 than children in the world.
Nearly 700 million people are now over 60 years old. By 2050, 2 billion people, more than 20% of the world’s population, will be 60 years of age or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the largest and fastest in the developing world, Asia being the region with the highest number of elderly and Africa with the highest proportional growth. In this spirit, increased attention is clearly required for the particular needs and challenges of many older persons. Equally important, however, is the essential contribution that most older men and women can make to the functioning of society if adequate safeguards are available. Human rights are at the heart of all efforts in this regard.
The introduction of new policies and programs!
Over the past decade, the aging of the population has led to the introduction of new policies and programs, where the social sector has played a central role, as evidenced by the majority of contributions to this report. Many governments in developed and developing countries have designed or implemented innovative health, social security or social protection policies. In addition, a number of policy documents have been promulgated, including national action plans on aging. Age-specific legislation has also begun to emerge in areas as diverse as building codes, licensing and control of health centers and vocational training. All levels of government, from the local to the national level, have assumed some of this responsibility and have created new institutions or redesigned existing solutions to find ways of gradually responding to the challenges faced by the elderly.
Understanding the role of the elderly in the family and society!
Government institutions have adopted a variety of approaches in setting priorities. These options highlight different perceptions of the role of the elderly in the family and in society at large. In some cases, the measures aim at capturing the dynamics of rapidly changing communities and societies, inviting a second look at current perceptions of older people and work, mechanisms for caring for the elderly, intergenerational support systems and financial constraints. Some governments have developed policies based on the principle of active aging and self-reliance to facilitate the pursuit of independent living in the home, with services and facilities catering to different types of needs. Others emphasize family ties and the support of the family unit as the primary source of care for the elderly. In all cases, a network of private actors, including various voluntary organizations and community centers, is essential to the proper functioning of the system as a whole.
A special resonance is the situation of older women who face inequalities because of their gender roles in society. Gender relations structure the entire life cycle, affect access to resources and opportunities, with a continuous and cumulative impact. The different circumstances that shape the lives of women and men in old age are the result of a lifetime experience. Good health, economic security, adequate housing, an enabling environment, access to land or other productive resources are the basis of aging with dignity, but achieving them depends on decisions and decisions that are determined only by each individual. The impact of gender inequalities on education and employment becomes more pronounced in old age. As a result, older women are more likely than older men to be poor. In addition, older women tend to assume greater responsibilities for family care while taking into account inflexible working conditions, mandatory retirement ages and very vulnerable pensions and other social security benefits. Undoubtedly, aging, its challenges to human rights and its feminization constitute an unprecedented change in the social fabric of all societies, with considerable consequences.
Addressing the situation!
The international community has begun to highlight the plight of the elderly in the International Plan of Action on Aging adopted at the World Assembly on Aging in 1982. The United Nations Principles for Older Persons 1991 and the Proclamation on the aging of 1992, an advanced international understanding of the essential requirements for the well-being of the elderly.
The Madrid Political Declaration and Plan of Action on Aging, adopted at the Second World Assembly on Aging, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 57/167, reinvigorated the political consensus on a program on aging, international cooperation and assistance in this area. Since its adoption, the Madrid International Plan has guided the development of policies and programs at the national level, inspired the development of national and regional plans, and provided an international framework for dialogue.
The Madrid International Plan of Action!
In the Political Declaration adopted in Madrid, Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights and called for the elimination of discrimination on grounds of age, neglect, abuse and violence. More specifically, the Madrid International Plan contains guidelines on the right to work, the right to health, participation and equal opportunities throughout life, highlighting the importance of the participation of older decision-making at all levels.
The priorities set out in the Madrid International Plan of Action include a wide range of issues: equal employment opportunities for all older people; programs to enable all workers to obtain social protection and social security, including, where appropriate, pensions, disability insurance and health benefits; and a sufficient minimum income for all elderly people, paying particular attention to socially and economically disadvantaged groups. It also stresses the importance of continuing education, vocational guidance and placement services in order to maintain maximum functional capacity and increase public recognition of the productivity and contributions of the elderly. Health is also an essential feature of the Madrid Plan of Action. Provisions include prevention, equal access to health care, active participation, the impact of HIV / AIDS on the elderly and the full functionality of the parameters of support and care.
There are many obligations with regard to elderly persons implicit in most basic human rights treaties, despite the absence of specific provisions that focus on them. These instruments apply to the elderly in the same way as all other persons, protecting essential human rights, including the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, without torture and ill-treatment of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and equality before the law, and an adequate standard of living without discrimination on any ground