October 1st – UN Older People’s Day around the world

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The General Assembly of the United Nations stated, in 1990, that the 1st October would be the International Day of Older Persons.  The activities, organised world-wide during this day, are a reminder that the rights of older people are inseparable from the principles expressed by the United Nations. Last year Ban Kid-moon, the current Secretary -General of the United Nations, said that “The United Nations is committed to promote the independence, participation and dignity of older people and to combat all forms of neglect, abuse and violence”.

The International Longevity Centre Global Alliance comprises different centres world-wide (United States, France, UK, Netherlands, South Africa,  Japan, Czech Republic, Israel, India, Dominican Republic and Argentina).  All of the organisations in the Alliance monitor and research their respective national  policies on older people and how each country responds to Older People’s day, perhaps this also give us an idea of their policy approach to older people more generally.
Most of the ILC member countries celebrate Older People’s Day on October 1. However, the Japanese have traditionally celebrated September 15 as Senior Citizens Day and the third Monday of September as Respect for the Aged Day and has therefore not celebrated the UN day.
The involvement of national Governments is mixed: the celebrations are led  predominately by third sector organisations, but a certain degree of initiation and coordination by Governments is evident in South Africa, India and Dominican Republic. In comparison in South Africa, France, India and Dominican Republic, the Governments participate in the celebrations, but do not take a leading role.
The range of activities across the world is varied and includes national fairs, meetings with local authorities , trips, visits to service centers and senior associations and institutions and older people led activities. South Africa’s activities are particularly interesting, there is an annual  competition called “Pretty things for little things” which encourages grandparents to make items for their grandchildren and they are submitted for judging and prizes are awarded. There is even a so called “Gero Olympics” event, held countrywide, in which teams of older people, who have practised all year, compete in various athletic categories for prizes.  In India there is an annual award function known as the “Great Elders Awards”, the awards are given to  older people with commendable achievements in any field.
While many of the countries involved thus approach Older People’s Day in different ways, it is evident all the countries seem to agree on the fact that celebrating  Older People’s Day as an international day is important in order to to raise the profile of ageing issues and rights and to have different generations meeting together and celebrating the achievements of older people in our communities.
Without a doubt, across the world, a lot of energy goes into supporting the UN celebrations on the 1st October, however, it would help to have a more formal evaluation of the impact of the celebrations. In setting up the day, the UN’s aim of promoting the rights of older people is laudable and, if the Westminster government are to develop the day into one which genuinely promotes the rights of older people, they certainly will benefit from looking at what our colleagues across the world are doing.

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