Geneva, 1 October 2017 – On the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Older Persons, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy urged the world society to facilitate the increased participation and involvement of elderly people in societies.

He noted that the “world is witnessing a demographic shift in which the world’s elderly population - aged 65 and above - has nearly doubled in the last 50 years. The World Bank estimates that nearly 10% of the world population are aged above 65 with the highest share – approximately 1/5 of the population –in North America and in Europe.”

The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director deplored the misleading and flawed narrative depicting elders as a burden to modern societies. Ambassador Jazairy mentioned that the Arabic and Islamic traditions embrace elders as a social asset - enjoying widespread respect and esteem within societies. That tradition could serve as a source of inspiration for advanced societies: 

The Arabic and Islamic traditions consider ageing as a source of wisdom for which elders gain more respect and admiration from other social components the older they get. In certain advanced societies, ageing is considered as a handicap excluding elderly people from meaningful participation in societies and at times relegating them to geriatric homes.

“The world society needs to develop a model that gives space for elders to contribute to the well-being of our modern societies. International decision-makers have spoken for decades about the need to address the ‘greying of societies’ implying that elder persons constitute a burden to modern societies.

“Instead of embracing our elders who sowed the seeds of our modern society’s successes, the status of elders in many societies is becoming that of a forgotten and marginalized segment of population. Exclusion and rejection of elders are becoming the norms in many parts of the world. This is civilisation in reverse.

Isolation and remoteness of elders will not enable the society to harness their wisdom and intellect. A new social model needs to be identified in which elders are allowed to participate in, and contribute to, the economic development of our societies; they should not be excluded from the workforce by ‘ageism.’

“In addition to the economic involvement of elders, governments must promote policies enabling meaningful involvement of elders in all spheres of society encompassing cultural, social, health and political spheres in line with the provisions set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Elders must have a central position in the family and children should be obligated by law to provide support and protection for their parents. Society’s success builds on the legacy of its elders. Neglecting approximately 1/10 of the world population will not contribute to a sustainable future,” concluded the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre.

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