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“Ageism should not be downplayed: it is an infringement of older person’s human rights,” says UN rights expert

UN International Day of Older Persons

GENEVA (1st October 2016) – On occasion of the 26th UN International Day of Older Persons, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, urges all States to step up their efforts to effectively combat ageism which has a detrimental effect on the right of older persons to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

“Ageism remains a form of abuse that is largely ignored by society although it is a very common phenomenon,” the Independent Expert said. “The worst is that many people are not even aware of their ageist attitudes as they have subconsciously internalized stereotypes about older persons,” she added.

“Ageism in care ranges from patronizing to the failure to afford older people sufficient respect, choice and control or to take their needs and aspirations seriously,” Ms. Kornfeld-Matte explained. “Labeling older persons as bed blocking reflects a common ageist attitude that is symptomatic of the failure to respect and protect the human rights of older persons. This should not be downplayed: The failure to treat vulnerable older persons with dignity is an infringement of their human rights,” the UN expert stressed.

Other manifestations of age discrimination that directly or indirectly violate the rights of older persons to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health include the exclusion of older persons from medical research and clinical trials, or the fact that conditions largely affecting older persons, such as dementia or incontinence, systematically receive less attention than those affecting other segments of the population in a similar manner.

“It seems surprising that the overwhelming majority of nurses in many countries is caring for older persons but has never received any formal geriatric training,” the Independent Expert noted. “If we want to effectively combat ageist attitudes and age discrimination, we will need to ensure that those caring for older persons recognize and appreciate their heterogeneity and their specific needs and receive appropriate geriatric training,” she emphasized. “More geriatricians are also needed in the academia to teach and conduct research on ageing, and to pioneer new models of care,” the UN expert concluded.

Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile) was appointed by Human Rights Council as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons in May 2014. Ms. Kornfeld-Matte served as the National Director of the Chilean National Service of Ageing where she designed and implemented the National Policy of Ageing. She has a long career as an academic and is the founder of the programme for older persons at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. As a mandate holder, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte is independent from any government or organization, and serves in her individual capacity.

Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/IE/Pages/IEOlderPersons.aspx

Human rights of older persons: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/OlderPersons/Pages/OlderPersonsIndex.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Khaled Hassine (+41 22 917 93 67 / khassine@ohchr.org) or write to olderpersons@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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