Ageing and life-course

International Day of Older Persons 2016

Take a Stand Against Ageism

woman from zimbabwe smiling
Kate Holt / HelpAge International

For older people, ageism is an everyday, yet heart-breaking, challenge. Overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, ageism marginalizes and excludes older people in their communities, at the very time of life where enjoyment could be paramount.

Ageism is everywhere, yet is the most socially normalized of any prejudice. It begins when the media portrays old people as “senile” and “doddering” on television. It occurs when the doctor applies a more “relaxed” attitude towards screening an older person for preventable illness, or uses care guidelines meant for younger people. It manifests as the policymaker who, subconsciously or actively, prioritises against policies that would channel investments into infrastructure for ageing societies. These attitudes, pervasive yet invisible, lead to the marginalisation of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being.

More concerning is that older people who internalize ageist attitudes die sooner. Research reveals that older people who have negative attitudes towards aging live 7.5 years shorter than those with positive attitudes, and have poorer recovery from disability and disease (Levy BR, Slade MD, Kunkel SR, Kasl SV. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002 83(2):261-270). Older people who feel they are a burden may also perceive their lives to be less valuable, putting them at risk of depression and social isolation.

This year, we challenge everyone to identify and question these internalized ageist attitudes, and to understand the serious impact that these attitudes have.

The theme of the International Day of Older Persons for 2016 is "Take A Stand Against Ageism". This year, the World Health Organization adopted the Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health and a related resolution at the 69th World Health Assembly, in which the WHO Director-General is called on to lead a Global Campaign to Combat Ageism, to support local and international partners in their efforts to change policies and practices.

International Day of Older Persons

A demographic revolution is underway throughout the world. Today, there are around 600 million persons aged 60 years and over world-wide. This number will double by 2025 and will reach two billion by 2050, with the vast majority of older persons in the developing world.

In order to recognize the important contributions that older people make to our world, while raising awareness towards issues of ageing, the United Nations designated 1 October as the International Day of Older Persons. The World Health Organization works together with our partners and affiliates to commemorate this day and raise awareness for the continuing challenges facing older people.


"Combat ageism"

Age-based stereotypes influence behaviours, policy development and even research. Addressing these must lie at the core of any public-health response to population ageing.
(World Report on Ageing and Health)