Today marks the International Day of Older Persons. Established in 1990, this day brings awareness and understanding to the roles of older persons in their communities and societies at large. With an estimated 2 billion people (over 20% of the world’s population) expected to be 60 or older by the year 2050, we must take steps now to combat age discrimination and, worse, the neglect and abuse of older persons.
This year’s theme of “Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society” is about enabling and expanding the contributions of older persons in all aspects of life, including social, cultural, economic, civic and political. It highlights the importance of initiatives that support full and effective participation in old age that takes into account an individual’s basic rights, needs and preferences regardless of their age.
With most of elder abuse going undocumented and perpetrators not being held accountable, organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) are working to advance inclusion and connectedness for older people today and in the future. Bethany Brown, an advocate and researcher on older persons at HRW, has been researching the lack of needs assessments for older persons and the devastating consequences this has in a humanitarian crisis. She highlights the World Humanitarian Summit slogan, “Leave No One Behind”, that encourages the international community to come together in tackling global challenges from a stance of connectedness and inclusion.
Being inclusive of all ages can start in your local community. For example, this fall, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia is hosting a special exhibition, Bodies in Translation: Age and Creativity, that challenges assumptions about aging and explores the lived experience of older persons as it relates to identity, culture, embodiment, sexuality and disability.
On this day and every day, we must acknowledge that all people, regardless of their age, have their role in society and should not be excluded or discriminated against due to their perceived ability. We encourage you to connect with the older generation in your community to unearth and tap into the talents and knowledge they have to share and contribute to creating a more inclusive and sustainable world.