On December 14 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons. Each year has had a different theme and this year it is the resilience and contributions of older women.
The United Nations reports that the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened existing inequalities. Here in New Zealand, for instance, women workers were among the hardest-hit by lockdowns in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Nursing still remains a mainly female profession and nurses were our front-line defence, not only taking care of hospitalised sufferers but also working long hours in vaccination centres around the country. Many nurses came out of retirement to assist.
The past three years have also intensified the socio-economic, environmental, health and climate-related impacts on the lives of older persons, especially older women, who constitute the majority.
Though they continue to contribute meaningfully to their communities and to local and central government, what they offer (based on experience and expertise) still remains largely invisible and disregarded. Mainly this is because of the limits imposed by gender discrimination in many countries and in spheres of influence.
There is sexism and ageism to counter, and when combined – as with how older and aged women are often viewed – the fight for equity becomes harder.
The 2022 theme of International Day of Older Persons serves as a hallmark and reminder of the significant role older women play in facing global challenges and contributing to their solutions with resilience and fortitude.
Recognising this and the value of understanding women’s merits, perspectives and needs is critical to create meaningful policies at local, national and international levels. To begin a discussion and include women’s voices in everything we do.
UNIDOP is a call to action and opportunity aimed to embrace the voices of older women and showcase their ongoing resilience, what they offer to society and how they influence problem-solving at all levels. The intention within the United Nations is also to promote discussion and decision on policies that protect the human rights of older persons, focusing this year on women, and to recognise what our senior citizens contribute generally within family and community, and to sustainable development.