The Rights of the Elderly

The Rights of the Elderly

Article 2 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration (UHRD) stipulates that:  “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” 

Article 25 of the said Declaration provides that: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The right to a decent life, health, housing, financial resources (whether a replacement income and/or income from employment) were reiterated in the report of the 2nd Report of the Second World Assembly on Ageing (Madrid, 8-12 April 2002, United Nations).

But access to social protection, health care, decent housing, income as well as social services is, in general, very limited for the elderly in many countries worldwide.

Without access to social protection, and with limited family support in most countries, including developing and emerging nations, elderly people are a vulnerable group whose human rights are not always respected.

However, the elderly are also a growing social group in all countries. Indeed, the number of people aged 60 years and over will increase from 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2025. In 2050, they will represent 2 billion people, equivalent to 20 % of the world population. The majority of older people will live in developing countries.

Unlike the situation in other groups, such as women and children, there is currently no comprehensive international instrument on the rights of older people. However, the United Nations, including its specialized agencies, has paid increasingly higher attention to questions related to ageing. Thus, in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly, a series of texts or non-binding mechanisms have directly addressed this issue, and recognise it as a global policy priority.

The purpose of this forum is to present and discuss the situations of older people worldwide and to analyze the experiences of different countries, in order to make recommendations on economic and social policies for the improvement of human rights of elderly people.


This thematic special forum is organized by the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH)