Aged people are too often ignored and denied their full human rights

Published on Council of Europe, by Thomas Hammarberg, April 28, 2008.

Older people have the same rights as others. Because of their vulnerability they need special protection and already the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated specifically that elderly persons have the right to security. Many of the subsequent human rights treaties stipulate basic rights for aged people, one example is the revised European Social Charter. However, the rights of old persons are still often ignored and sometimes totally denied. They suffer from widespread perceptions that they are non-productive and worthless in modern society. It is time for a more constructive debate on how human rights for the older generation can be ensured.

One problem is that older people in general do often not have a strong say in politics. Organisations defending their interests are with few exceptions – weak and political parties tend to focus on younger generations. The fact that a clear majority of the elderly are women may also have contributed to this lack of political attention … Vulnerable are also many older migrants, some of whom have language difficulties. With a growing immigrant population European countries are here faced with a challenge for which the authorities seem to be grossly unprepared. The result is that individuals are discriminated against on several grounds.

I suggest that European political leaders review their own policies for the rights of old people. Before they themselves have to experience the consequences of their present-day policies, or lack thereof. (full text).


Recommendation 1796(2007) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the situation of the elderly in Europe;

Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society: improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Europe 2006-2015;

Commissioner Hammarberg calls for more protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;

International human rights bodies worldwide need more support and more self-criticism;

Commissioner Hammarberg advocates for improved Roma access to education.

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