29 May 2009: A professor of ageing at Australian Catholic University (ACU) was one of only 12 health professionals from around the world invited to join a United Nations group in Germany this month, discussing older people’s rights.
Professor Tracey McDonald, RSL LifeCare Chair of Ageing at the University’s North Sydney Campus, spent three days in Bonn, Germany, meeting with the World Expert Group on the Rights of Older Persons.
Central to their discussions was the possibility of a future convention on the rights of the elderly to ensure they are not subjected to discrimination such as ageism, neglect or abuse simply because they are more vulnerable.
Professor McDonald said a convention would establish a framework of ‘hard’ law that would be capable of addressing institutional ageism which is deeply ingrained in almost every society.
“There are many layers of discrimination against older persons which prevents them from reaching their full potential and participating equally in their communities,” she said.
“With a rapidly aging population in every region of the world, it was agreed by the expert group that the UN needs to define a new set of rights that are enshrined in law, to assure the continued contribution of older persons to society.”
The Group also explored the feasibility of establishing a special representative for older persons’ rights within the United Nations to undertake the role of raising awareness of human rights inequities concerning older people and also to help establish a convention if the proposal is accepted at the next meeting of the General Assembly late in 2009.