On World Elder Abuse Day, older people around the world say age discrimination is a common experience

An older woman sitting on a bed in Haiti.

Older people around the world are being subjected to abuse and discrimination because of their age, according to a new report by the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP).

On World Elder Abuse Day (15 June), Age International is uniting with campaigners around the world to highlight elder abuse and the importance of a new UN Convention on the rights of older people.

Ken Bluestone, Influencing and Advocacy Manager at Age International, said: ‘This report confirms what we hear in all the countries we work in: too many older people repeatedly saying that they are considered useless, incompetent and a drain on resources by their families and by society, as well as being subjected to abuse.’

‘Not enough is being done to stop this abuse and protect the rights of older people, so we are calling on the UK government to attend the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July.’

The GAROP report, ‘In Our Own Words’, is based on consultations with more than 2000 older people from 50 countries, including the UK, who were asked whether they feel discriminated against in older age.

The findings showed that elder abuse occurs in different setting and scenarios, from healthcare to banking, as well as from communities and even family members. Age International works to challenge discrimination and violence against older people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

In rural Tanzania, older women are being ostracised, beaten and sometimes even killed, because they have been accused of being witches. Mageni, 50, was accused of being a witch by relatives, including a brother and two of her sisters, shortly after her parents died.

‘I was attacked in my sleep. I woke up and found two people standing at my bed. I said ‘What are you doing here?’ but they didn’t answer. They just hacked at me with machetes.”

Mageni believes the accusations stemmed from concerns about who would inherit her parent’s land and livestock.

‘I’m always worried that they will return,’ she said.

Despite these kinds of cases, older people’s right to be free from violence and abuse is not sufficiently protected under international law. There is also inadequate research into elder abuse, which makes tackling the problem even more difficult.

‘Research has demonstrated that elder abuse is the least surveyed of the different types of violence in low-income countries,’ said Bluestone.

Age Demands Action

Older people march for their rights in Haiti.

Older people march for their rights in Haiti.

As the global population ages, the number of older people at risk of elder abuse is also predicted to rise. Currently, there are more than 895 million people aged 60 and over, representing 12% of the global population. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 1.3 billion or 16%.

A report by the World Health Organization and UN agencies found that of the 133 countries surveyed, two-thirds do not have adult protective services in place to support older people subjected to elder abuse, despite the growing global population of older people.

Today, (15 June) Age Demands Action campaigners in 40 countries, will bring attention to elder abuse and the importance of a new UN convention on the rights of older people and follow up with their governments to attend the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing in July.

‘We want to see the UK government take the lead in global efforts to put in place a UN Convention that would take us a step closer to ensuring human rights are for everyone, at every stage of our lives.’ said Bluestone.

– ENDS –

Media contact: Sara Guy, sara.guy@ageinternational.org.uk
Phone: 020 3033 1466
Out of hours: 07071 243 243

Notes to Editors:

Ken Bluestone, Influencing and Advocacy Manager at Age International, is available for interview via phone.


High-resolution photographs of Mageni, 50, from Tanzania, can be downloaded here. Photocredit: Judith Escribano / Age International.

In Our Own Words: What Older People Say About Discrimination and Human Rights in Older Age

GAROP (The Global Alliance on the Rights of Older People) member organisations carried out a consultation to hear from older people on how they were discriminated against and how this affects their human rights. Over 2000 people from 50 countries took part. https://www.rightsofolderpeople.org/new-garop-report-in-our-own-words/

The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014

The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014 reflects data from 133 countries and is the first report of its kind to assess national efforts to address interpersonal violence, including elder abuse. It is jointly published by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. https://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/status_report/2014/report/report/en/

The Open-ended Working Group on Ageing

The Open-ended Working Group on Ageing is a UN working group that meets in New York. It was established by a resolution at the 2010 General Assembly. The OEWG’s main purpose is to strengthen the protection of the human rights of older people.

Age Demands Action for Rights

This year 40 countries will be taking part in the Age Demands Action for Rights campaign. As we get older our rights do not change, despite this, international human rights law does not currently address the specific human rights violations that people experience in old age.

Examples of activities on the day:

  • Serbia: 15,000 people will be attending their ‘Third Age Fair’ which will discuss the importance of putting older people’s rights on the human rights agenda.
  • Bangladesh: Traditional street theatre will be used to raise awareness around elder abuse issues.
  • Russia: Two of our campaign partners are organising events and over 1,000 older people will take part. A flash mob of over 200 older people will also take place.


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