October 1, of every year is designated as the International Day of the Older Persons, which is observed in many countries around the world. It all started on December 14, 1990. On that date the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate 1 October as the International Day of Older Persons. It was observed for the first time on 1 October, 1991.
In some countries it is a holiday. Each year there was a different theme chosen for the celebrations. For 2016 the theme is “Take A Stand Against Ageism”. The themes for the last five years were—
2011: “The Growing Opportunities and Challenges of Global Aging”
2012: “Longevity: Shaping the Future”
2013: “The future we want: what the older persons are saying”
2014 “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for all”
2015: “Sustainability of Age Inclusive in the Urban Enviroment”
By observing the above mentioned themes, one can realize the importance and the priority placed on the older persons. Their roles and contributions, to the society and building of the future, during their younger days shouldn’t be ignored. They should have their rightful places in the society in their old ages and shouldn’t be discriminated. Discriminations against and prejudices towards the old people amount to ageism, which is highlighted in this year’s theme. It was this growing ageist attitude towards the older people, which necessitates the UN to intervene.
As I had mentioned in my previous article: “Healthy Aging” (19/9/2016 GNLM), the life expectancy of the world population is dramatically increasing. According to the UN and WHO documents, between 1950 and 2010 the life expectancy rose from 46 to 68 and is projected to reach 81 by the end of the century. The demographic revolution is underway throughout the world. There are now almost 700 million people over the age of 60 worldwide. By 2050, 2 billion or 20 percent of the world population will be over 60, and for the first time in human history, the number of people over sixty will exceed the number of children. The increase in the numbers of the older people are the largest and most rapid in the developing countries, and Asia has the largest share.
As the life expectancy of the people are increasing they are becoming more healthier physically and mentally than before—generally. However, judging from the above mentioned statics, we are headed towards human resource shortages, if we stick to the present age criteria set for employments. That would reduce the work force and thus affect the productions and the economy, as the number of young people are on the decline. Thus, if we don’t start finding solutions, now, to overcome the work force depletions we are definitely headed for trouble. For example: the retirement age for civil servants should be increased to a certain appropriate level or extend the services of those who are still in optimum health conditions in body and mind, on case by case basis.
The common concept that Azheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline are normal part of aging may be true for some, but for those who know how to age healthily, their quality of life could be greatly enhanced. Though they may be physically not as able as in their youthful days, their minds would still be sharp and alert. They can still be able to perform the intellectual duties assigned to them on par with, if not better than, their younger counterparts.
In most countries, ageism is becoming an everyday, yet heart-breaking challenge for most of the older persons. They are being overlooked in employments, restricted from doing social services, regarded as debilitated, unworthy of attention and are even stereotyped as senile persons in the media, such as the television series and are being marginalized from the community. They are being discriminated against due to their age. Though the older persons may not be able physically as their younger counterparts, their experiences, wisdoms and knowledges are invaluable. Thus they shouldn’t be subjected to ageism.
Many governments in the developed and the developing countries have designed or piloted innovative policies in the health, social security or welfare systems. In addition, several policy framework documents, including national plans of action on aging have been enacted. Specific age-related legislative measures in areas as varied as building codes, licensing and monitoring of care centers and vocational training have also begun to emerge. All these are done with the aim of helping the older persons to be able to face and overcome the everyday challenges of aging. I hope our authorities are aware of such measures being taken in other countries and introduce them to our country, too.
At present, there are some care centers for the aged established in our country by the government and some charity and religious groups. However, the number of elders enjoying the services of such facilities are very few as there are not enough to accomodate everyone who needs their help. Thus more care centers should be established to accomodate more elderlies whose numbers are dramatically rising. That would provide the older persons some reprieve from the everyday challenges they have to face.
In conclusion, I would like to urge my contemporaries not to yield to aging. As for me, I viewed a person’s age is just a number; it shouldn’t become an obstacle in one’s life. Don’t take for granted that just because you are getting older, you will become forgetful and you cannot learn anymore. Keep trying and you will be surprised that you are still capable of learning anything and prove to others that you are still capable and useful to the society. However, many old people are reluctant to learn or thought they are incapable of learning anymore, and that is very wrong. By learning something, for example the use of computers, you will be accessable to the latest informations and technologies. It will be a great asset for you that would work to your advantage and keep you abreast of the younger generations and, in a way, will assist in taking a stand against ageism.
1. The UN and WHO documents on “International Day of Older Persons.
2. The Wikipedia.