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The rights of the elderly

Feb 17,2019 - Last updated at Feb 17,2019

There is an ongoing effort at the United Nations to draft yet an additional human rights convention, this time on the rights of the elderly or older people, as some human rights experts prefer to describe them.

The first question that comes to mind in this context is whether there is, indeed, a need for an international human rights treaty on the rights of the elderly. In other words, does this category of people pose a different or an additional set of rights to require a special human rights instrument for their protection? This could be the easy part of the broader issue, since, like children who enjoy special protections under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, people who are old pose, indeed, special challenges peculiar to their age group.

Under existing human rights jurisprudence, older people are those who are either above 60 or 65 years of age. There is still no agreement on this point. Be that as it may, this group of people who are advanced in age have different sets of health, economic and social demands on society. This is the age group of people who are prone to illnesses and health hazards due to their advanced age. They are generally unemployed and need sufficient compensation in the form of retirement allowances in order to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living, and perhaps more than anything else, they require family and social support emotionally and psychologically.

On closer look, older people do not constitute just one group of people, but rather several groups of people. People belonging to the age group between 75 and 85 have additional concerns than the elderly who are younger. The older the elderly get, the more complex are their concerns and the variety of protections that they urgently need or are entitled to. In other words, one cannot lump all the elderly into one group of people when, in fact, they are several groups of elderly, with different and distinct sets of concerns and needs.

As the world population gets older, there is obviously a need for a special human rights treaty to cope with their unique challenges. Yet on closer look, the rights of the elderly become more complex and taxing as they become even older.

The experts who are now engaged in drafting a new human rights treaty for the elderly must be elderly themselves, as only the older people know for sure the plight of the old and what they urgently need.

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