Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?
International Day of Older Persons
This year, on the 1st of October, we are celebrating the International Day of Older Persons for the 30th time worldwide. This year, the celebration is overshadowed by an unprecedented health crisis, posing grave challenges for societies in Europe and all around the world. The UN 2020 theme is therefore in line with these events: “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?” It is an invitation to reflect on the way older persons were treated, looked at and represented during the recent crisis. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic, which started as a health crisis and evolved into an economic and social crisis, affected almost every aspect of our daily lives.
Very soon a clear common trend emerged: a much higher infection and death rate among older persons. In particular, older persons and their relatives living in long-term care facilities have experienced a dramatic process of loss and pain and are at risk of losing their fundamental rights. The recent sense of relief associated with the gradual reopening of economies, schools, tourism and cultural and social events cannot mask the continuing impact of the pandemic. In addition, governments need to implement recovery processes, and lessons need to be learned to respond to the challenges ahead.
We as the European Seniors’ Union (ESU) have repeatedly called for our future societies to be more resilient and fairer and to give European citizens the rights and opportunities they deserve. This call is more urgent now than ever. It’s about the kind of society we want to live in and that we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren, to all future generations. On the road to that society we want to place four ‘signposts’, inspired by sometimes heart-warming, but often also painful experiences of and with seniors during the last few months. In her letter written at the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, President An Hermans shared the following points:
- Respect for human dignity.
All policy guidelines need to be based on the respect for human dignity and the integrity of every person. Older persons’ human rights must be protected; advanced age should never by itself be a criterion for excluding persons from specialised healthcare.
- Fighting ageism.
- Solidarity: one of the cornerstones of European societies.
- Resilient citizens included in decisions that affect their lives
You can read the ESU message on the occasion of the International Day for Older Persons here in four languages.
We invite the senior associations to spread these ideas on respect for older persons within their organization and to use the letter as a source of inspiration for activities and actions. We hope that also politicians and all stakeholders will use the opportunity to express their appreciation for the role older persons play in our society and use their influence to create a more fair and resilient society, were all generations feel respected and valued.