Saturday, October 18, 2008

Upcoming UN declaration: rights of older persons

In 1948 when the UN was being established a person born that year had a life expectancy of 41 years! A person born today has a life expectancy of 72 years. I believe this is worldwide data. 60 years ago no need was felt to declare special rights for older persons. They just weren't that prevalent and society was quite different in most of the world than it is today. A committee is now working on a statement, or declaration of the Human Rights of Older Persons because, as the speaker I was listening to, declared the world over abuse of older persons exists, they are isolated, ignored, and often considered burdens by younger people -- by their societies at large and their families specifically. Not at all everywhere all the time -- but enough that it is truly a problem. So a declaration will be proposed in the next year or so and, probably, enacted.

Although it sounds like a tired a cliche, the speaker said, "older persons are the mirrors of tomorrow and reflection of what younger persons will experience as they go through life." Yes, we know. Except the full meaning of these thoughts is not much considered, largely because the younger people to whom it's directed do not want to think about themselves as becoming "older tomorrow" -- although, of course, most feverently hope to have long lives and, in fact, in most cases in Western society take it for granted that they will reach that 72 and possible well beyond.

If older persons were given the respect and equality that the proposed declaration will claim is their right, younger persons should have less fear and trembling as they think of becoming older. How wonderful it is that now older persons are the majority in many countries, and how sad that those countries NEED to heed a declaration of human rights for what is now or soon to be a majority. True, these older persons will need a large share of the social and medical serives. But they also can contribute greatly, in their ranks is enormous expertise and wisdom as well as long, generosity and humor.

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