UN report

UN Report: The 2007 International Day of Older Persons

Each year, October 1st is the day set aside by the UN as the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP) and in celebration of this day, the Committees on Ageing in New York, Geneva, and Vienna each hold a special program to recognize and generate awareness on issues concerning ageing.

By Florence L. Denmark

Psychology International (November-December 2007)


UN Report: The 2007 International Day of Older Persons
by Florence L. Denmark, Main APA Representative to the UN

The Committee on Ageing* (COA), in New York, is a Non-Governmental Organization working in tandem with the United Nations (UN) to facilitate the UN in their mission of building a society for all ages, and to promote the infusion of ageing needs within the social and economic policies of member states. 

COA’s mission is broad and extends outward to creating a global awareness of the opportunities and challenges involved with ageing and inward within the UN, to advocacy for the integration of ageing into policies and programs.

Each year, October 1st is the day set aside by the UN as the International Day of Older Persons (IDOP).  In celebration of this day, the Committees on Ageing in New York, Geneva, and Vienna  each hold a special program to recognize and generate awareness on issues concerning ageing.  In New York, the celebration of the 17th annual UN IDOP was entitled “Addressing the Challenges and Opportunities of Ageing: Empowering Older Persons.”  This all-day conference considered achievements toward the empowerment of older persons, with specific focus on protection of their rights and participation in society, and the promotion of a positive image of ageing.

The annual IDOP is the major activity of the NY COA, and serves as the first briefing held by the Department of Public Information for the fall.  The event enjoys broad sponsorship, including the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  Many international governments, NGOs, UN bodies and private enterprises, working to empower older persons, were identified during this forum. 

International presenters from the World’s five regions highlighted the objectives set forth in the 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which supports ways to realize a number of goals, including human rights and freedoms for older persons; security in ageing, especially eradicating poverty in old age and building on the UN Principles for Older Persons; empowering older persons’ participation in the political, economic and social aspects of society; and providing opportunities for personal development, self-fulfillment and well-being throughout life.

The IDOP conference was opened by Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, from the UN who read a special message from Secretary-General to the UN, Ban Ki-moon, that touched on the challenges and opportunities of population ageing and the importance of the adoption of the Madrid Plan. Other opening remarks were made by Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia, President of the UN General Assembly; and myself, as Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing. 

Following the introduction, there was a special tribute to Julia T. Alvarez, founder of the IDOP.  Ambassador Julia Alverez, a former Permanent alternate Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN, was acknowledged for the work she has done to put ageing on the global agenda and personally given tribute by many present, including Erasmo Lara-Pena, Ambassador and Charge ‘dAffaires, for the Dominican Republic; and Alexandre Kalache, Director of the WHO Ageing and Life Course Programme, who came in from Geneva for the event.  Although Ms. Alverez was too ill to attend the program, her daughter, a medical doctor, was in attendance at the event and responded on behalf of her mother. 

Keynote addresses were given by Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN, Juan Antonio Yanez-Barnuevo; and Robert Vos, the Director of Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economics and Social Affairs at the UN.  Mr. Vos spoke on his recently published work, “World Economic and Social Survey 2007: Development in an Ageing World.” 

Lunch was followed by a cultural program, featuring the United Nations Chorus, after which, the assessment of the implementation of the Madrid Plan took place.  International presentations were made from each of the five UN regions, including Asia (Bangladesh), Africa (Kenya), South America (Columbia), (Europe and North America (Germany), and the Middle East (Lebanon).  Richard Blewitt, Chief Executive of HelpAge International, then discussed specific strategies for holding governments accountable to the Madrid Plan.  At the close of the afternoon session, Dr. Alexandre Kalache, on behalf of the World Health Organization, launched the WHO Global Age-friendly Cities Guide.

The 17th Annual IDOP was considered a success by attendees, presenters, UN `representative, and COA members alike, and received press coverage and recognition from the AARP.  The COA plans to continue its work mainstreaming ageing throughout the UN and building networks internationally.  Using the IDOP as an annual assessment of progress, COA will hone implementation strategies for the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. Ψ

* Following the European spelling, an “e” is used in the word ageing in UN contexts.