Skip to content
Please donate

Discrimination of older people

Published on 15 June 2015 01:00 PM

On World Elder Abuse Day, older people around the world say age discrimination is a common experience

Older people around the world are being subjected to abuse and discrimination because of their age, according to a new report by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP).


On World Elder Abuse Day (15 June), Age International is uniting with campaigners around the world to highlight elder abuse and the importance of a new UN Convention on the rights of older people.

'Not enough is being done to stop this abuse'

Ken Bluestone, Influencing and Advocacy Manager at Age International, said: 'This report confirms what we hear in all the countries we work in: too many older people repeatedly saying that they are considered useless, incompetent and a drain on resources by their families and by society, as well as being subjected to abuse.

'Not enough is being done to stop this abuse and protect the rights of older people, so we are calling on the UK government to attend the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July.'

The GAROP report, ‘In Our Own Words', is based on consultations with around 2000 older people from 50 countries, including the UK, who were asked whether they feel discriminated against in older age.

Age International works to challenge discrimination

The findings showed that elder abuse occurs in different setting and scenarios, from healthcare to banking, as well as from communities and even family members. Age International works to challenge discrimination and violence against older people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

In rural Tanzania, older women are being ostracised, beaten and sometimes even killed, because they have been accused of being witches. Mageni, 50, was accused of being a witch by relatives, including a brother and two of her sisters, shortly after her parents died.

'I was attacked in my sleep. I woke up and found two people standing at my bed. I said ‘What are you doing here?' but they didn't answer. They just hacked at me with machetes.'

Mageni believes the accusations stemmed from concerns about who would inherit her parent's land and livestock.

'I'm always worried that they will return,' she said.

Older people's rights not sufficiently protected

Despite these kinds of cases, older people's right to be free from violence and abuse is not sufficiently protected under international law. There is also inadequate research into elder abuse, which makes tackling the problem even more difficult.

'Research has demonstrated that elder abuse is the least surveyed of the different types of violence in low-income countries,' said Bluestone.

As the global population ages, the number of older people at risk of elder abuse is also predicted to rise. Currently, there are more than 895 million people aged 60 and over, representing 12% of the global population. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 1.3 billion or 16%.

A report by the World Health Organization and UN agencies found that of the 133 countries surveyed, two-thirds do not have adult protective services in place to support older people subjected to elder abuse, despite the growing global population of older people.

'We want the UK government to take the lead'

Today, (15 June) Age Demands Action campaigners in 40 countries, will bring attention to elder abuse and the importance of a new UN convention on the rights of older people and follow up with their governments to attend the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July.

'We want to see the UK government take the lead in global efforts to put in place a UN Convention that would take us a step closer to ensuring human rights are for everyone, at every stage of our lives' said Bluestone.

Share this page

Last updated: Dec 05 2018

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top