Reflections from UN IDOP in New York

Ferdous poses with a group of women at the UN International Day of Older Persons session

By Ferdous Ara Begum 

The NGO Committee on Aging in New York organized the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons at the UN with the slogan “We are the Champions.” This day coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reaffirms the commitment to promoting the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by older persons. The UN celebration promotes the message that a person’s inherent dignity and fundamental rights should not diminish in older age.

The conference recognized the lifelong contributions of older human rights champion Helen Hamlin and others. Ms. Hamlin is 97 this year and was present in the meeting.

The conference was moderated by Craig Mokhiber, Director, New York office of the High commissioner of Human Rights. The interactive dialogue discussed four fundamental issues affecting older people:

  • Sexual health in old age
  • Older people in prison
  • Strategies to prevent cognitive impairment and support people with dementia
  • Ageism  

Coverage of such broad topics only reinforces the importance of prioritizing the needs of older people through policy and development.

Currently, the needs of the world’s older people are not adequately addressed—whether that’s in health care, the workplace, or even at home. Panelist Jeffrey Gardere, psychologist, and talk show host, makes a case in point: Most people from the ages of 60 to 85 are sexually active but societies don’t adequately recognize this reality.

Life doesn’t stop after 60. Many people are living full, productive lives well into their later years. At times the challenges as well as the potential of growing older gains mainstream momentum. I’m hopeful from this year’s UN celebration that change is on the horizon.

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