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Increased recognition of older people ‘a milestone’ on road to realising their potential

4 December 2017

Increased recognition of the human rights of older people will enable them to reach their full potential.

The comments followed a roundtable organised by the Commonwealth Association for the Ageing in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House.

The event saw human rights partners, Commonwealth accredited organisations, as well as parliamentarians from Uganda and the House of Lords, take part in a discussion to address the challenges facing older people, including the demographic age imbalance and quality of life opportunities.

Andrew Larpent, Chairman of CommonAge, said, “The event in Marlborough House was something of a milestone for CommonAge as we emerge as a newly-accredited Commonwealth organisation. We were delighted to have been invited by the Commonwealth’s human rights team to be part of a conversation about the position of older people in societies across the Commonwealth and how we can enhance the contribution and make sure that the capacity and the potential of older people is recognised in the discourse of the Commonwealth.”

Another of the panellists speaking at the event was Dr George Leeson from the University of Oxford. Dr Leeson, who is co-director of The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, said, “This event was about raising awareness. Given the demographic that we have at the moment, and over the next 25-30 years, it will become increasingly important that Commonwealth governments address the issues that will inevitably arise from the ageing of their populations. This event, was one of the first tentative steps to get this on the agenda and get moving.”

The Commonwealth Association for the Ageing, also known as CommonAge, was accredited in June. The organisation aims to advance the interests of older people throughout the Commonwealth by building capability and capacity in health and care services.

Economic difficulties make the management of ageing one of the most significant social and economic issues facing many Commonwealth countries. The impact is felt most acutely in areas such as the provision of good housing, healthcare and support services for the elderly.

Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Karen McKenzie, said, “With the focus on the 60 per cent of the Commonwealth that is under the age of 30, sometimes our elders and their many contributions to society can be overlooked. In particular, their vulnerabilities, their needs, and, crucially, their human rights. We allow this to happen to our detriment.

“Approaching this issue through an intergenerational lens will ensure that we adequately recognise and uphold the rights of our elders, while simultaneously providing a means of preserving our cultural heritages and traditions, strengthening social and community ties, and sharing the experience and knowledge of our elders with those who will derive the greatest benefit – our young people.”