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Dr. Natalia Kanem

Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund

Statement on the Occasion of the International Day of Older Persons


One in nine persons today is aged 60 or older. This is projected to increase to one in five by 2050.

Older people are often seen as burdens who no longer contribute to the economy, but nothing could be further from reality. Older people everywhere are making enormously important contributions to their families, communities and society more generally.

Many have led the struggle for reproductive rights and should be recognized for their courage, inspiration and commitment to empowering individuals to make their own decisions about the timing and spacing of pregnancy. We owe it to them to make sure our laws and policies challenge discrimination and recognize them as autonomous individuals.

The 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing called for the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all older persons. Older persons have a right to live with dignity and security, to enjoy access to essential health and social services and a minimum income to maintain independence, prevent impoverishment and age healthfully.

On this International Day of Older Persons, I extend my respect and gratitude to those older advocates whose early efforts continue to benefit us all and will make a difference to generations of women and girls for decades to come.