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UN chief calls for respect, protection for elders

Industry News 2013-05-17

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Friday highlighted the growing problem of elder abuse, calling for better strategies and stronger laws to protect the rights and dignity of older persons worldwide.

"Respect for elders is an integral part of many societies. As people live longer, and as we strive for sustainable and inclusive development, it is time to revive and expand our appreciation for those who have advanced in years," Ban said in his message for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, a new observance that is marked annually on June 15.

"A modern civilization can only live up to that name if it preserves the tradition of honoring, respecting and protecting society's elders," he added.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), elder abuse is a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person.

This type of violence constitutes a violation of human rights and includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional; financial and material abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious loss of dignity and respect.

The WHO estimates that between four and six percent of older persons worldwide have suffered from some form of elder abuse. Emerging research also suggests that abuse, neglect and violence against older persons, both at home and in institutions, are much more prevalent than currently acknowledged.

"Such abuse is an unacceptable attack on human dignity and human rights," the secretary-general said. "Making matters even worse, cases often remain unreported and unaddressed."

It was in response to this widening problem that the UN General Assembly proclaimed the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in December last year.

"As we commemorate the Day for the first time, let us all join in reaffirming that the human rights of older persons are as absolute as those of all human beings," Ban said, calling on governments and all those concerned to design and carry out more effective prevention strategies and stronger laws and policies to address all aspects of elder abuse.

"Let us work together to optimize living conditions for older persons and enable them to make the greatest possible contribution to our world," he urged.