null Message of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the International Day of Older Persons

The lives of the elderly are affected by the protracted crisis situation, the reshuffling of the structure of communities and comprehensive technological development alike. The balance between the rights and autonomy that the elderly are entitled to, and the burdens and obligations imposed on them is still missing, the vulnerability of older persons is more and more clearly visible all over the world, along with its social, health care and public life dimensions. However, it should become increasingly clear as well that a society cannot develop in a healthy way without its elderly generation, as Ombudsman Dr Ákos Kozma reminds us on the International Day of Older Persons.

“The health status of a society can best be assessed by the peripheries”, as Pope Francis says. The image of the family continuously changes in modern societies, the forms of cohabitation in the family undergo changes, life expectancy at birth is increasing, but the number of lonely old persons is also on the rise. Demographic trends show an aging European society not only in the long run but also, in our present days. 

Currently, there are over 901 million people over the age of sixty in the world. The rights and needs of the elderly are at the same time critical and neglected issues, although they affect twelve percent of the global population. However, almost one half of the global population aged over sixty lives with some kind of disability. In 1991, the UN General Assembly adopted its Principles for Older Persons, which include independence, participation, providing care, which is critical for living conditions and social policy alike, self-fulfilment and dignity, with regard to all of which the organisation declared 1 October the International Day of Older Persons.

In the European region, seventeen percent of the population of the European Union is over sixty-five years old. This rate is projected to reach twenty-one percent by 2030, and almost one quarter of the population by 2050. The proportion of people over eighty is expected to double in the next thirty years, and it will rise from the 4.5 percent in 2020 to 9 percent in 2050. The Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging specifically urges the member states, including Hungary, to ensure that the aging population may live actively and independently for the longest possible time. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, in cooperation with the European Commission, is now in the process of assessing the contribution of the lifelong activities of the elderly to the economy and society. This research project allows mapping how the different countries exploit the potentials of the older generations with regard to active and healthy aging, on the regional, national and local levels. During the elaboration, execution and monitoring of policies, it is critical for the different sectors, the persons affected and their advocacy organisations, the government and all experts to cooperate with each other.

Based on the authorisation for the protection of the rights of vulnerable social groups, the Ombudsman gives priority to the problems and questions of elderly persons. Furthermore, the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights takes part, as a member of the project entitled “The Renewal of the Methodological and Information Systems of the Social Sector”, in the inter-sectoral working group whose goal is to elaborate such a model, within the context of the current social welfare system – a model that would provide a more efficient organisation of services for the persons living with dementia and their family members. In this way, the Office, with its renowned professionals, contributes to the provision of more modern care services to the elderly in Hungary.

On the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Dr Ákos Kozma draws attention to our joint responsibility to ensure dignified, active, independent and healthy lives for the elderly.