Earlier this month, thousands of people of all ages and spanning 43 countries, stood up for the rights of older persons. HelpAge International sponsored the event as part of their “Age Demands Action” campaign, and visitors to their website showed their support by signing a petition or uploading a photo to their Flickr gallery.
According to HelpAge International’s website, “Increased life expectancy and declining fertility are changing the global make-up of populations. By 2050, people over 60 will outnumber those under 14 for the first time.” These are striking statistics and undoubtedly stir the call to action for support of elder’s rights.
HelpAge International is a global organization that tackles such difficult issues as age discrimination (both in roles and society), elder poverty, work, pensions, and access to health/other needed services. It is important work, to be sure. While elders are a rapidly growing population, I believe that we are still very far behind in terms of our respect for elders and our understanding of their place in society. Sure, we might see a few more older faces in advertising campaigns and print media, but that doesn’t mean we know how to treat an older person or know how to approach a complex spectrum of care needs as they age.
Many people are afraid to visit nursing homes for any number of reasons. The excuse I’ve heard from most? Visitors don’t know what to say or know how to talk to an older person. This is a tragedy, in my opinion, because really it’s not all that different from talking to someone your age or even younger. Besides, imagine living 80, 90, or 100 years — think of all the stories they have to share! Yes, Alzheimer’s can complicate conversations with an older person, and resulting behaviors can be very frightening. However, the person still deserves the respect and admiration that should naturally come from having walked for decades on this earth.
There is a great need for more dialogue on these issues among cultures across the globe, and I applaud HelpAge International for creating the spark.
I also strongly recommend checking out the photo gallery in the Rights section of the website – you’ll find stunning photos of older persons, and each photo carries with it the story of that elder in their corner of the world.
For more on the “Age Demands Action” campaign or the broader work of HelpAge International, visit http://www.helpage.org/Home.