October 2, 2023, is the UN International Day of Older Persons and it arrives in conjunction with Saskatchewan’s Seniors’ Week. In celebration of the wealth of experiences and knowledge that seniors bring to the community, the Wakaw Public Library will recognize them on Wednesday, October 3rd from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with coffee and refreshments.
Seventy-five years ago, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a monumental document in the history of human rights. In recognition of this milestone and looking to a future that delivers on the promise to ensure that all persons, including all older persons, fully enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms, the 33rd United Nations International Day of Older Persons will focus on the theme of “Fulfilling the Promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons: Across Generations”. According to the Fourth Review and Appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), age-based discrimination in institutions, attitudes, and practices continues to be rampant worldwide. The conclusions of the Review and Appraisal noted the shortfalls in the implementation of international and national frameworks for older persons. Systemic and structural barriers it found, still often exist for older persons in the context of work, standards of living, learning opportunities, and access to services and resources because of ageist attitudes, discriminatory laws and policies, underfunding, and lack of accessibility and affordability, among others regardless of the economic status of the country.
The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021–2030) aims to give everyone the opportunity to add life to years, wherever they live. By focusing on healthy aging for an entire decade, institutions, it is hoped, will focus on putting in place the infrastructure and supports needed to accomplish these goals through the creation of age-friendly environments, integrated and responsive health care systems and services, and ensuring access to long-term care for older people who need it. By tackling ageism where it exists, the lofty goals of improving economic development, harnessing intergenerational knowledge, and creating a more equitable, healthier, and happier world for people of all ages is possible.
The push that groups across Canada, like the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, are making to create age-friendly environments that will enable older people to age safely in a place that is right for them, continue to develop personally, be included, and contribute to their communities while retaining their independence and health is a push that needs to happen worldwide. According to the UN, many people around the world still experience worse health than they should because of unsupportive environments. By providing integrated care, healthcare providers can treat the whole person and not just their individual diseases, enabling better management of chronic conditions, the maintenance of the individual’s physical and mental capacity, and the prevention of care dependency. By ensuring access to long-term care when it is needed, policymakers can make it possible for all to have the care and support necessary to live with dignity, meaning, and rights.
The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing is an opportunity like none other for a “transformative collaboration of diverse sectors and stakeholders” to work together and enhance lives and to add quality to life by giving all people the chance to lead a meaningful life, no matter their age. By changing how people think, feel, and act toward aging, the latter years of life can be as full of experiences and growth as any other time in life. It should not be the numbers that count, but rather the life that is lived between them.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder