Youth may be sought after in western cultures, but older generations hold just as much weight both in family systems and in society. For example, Koreans are taught to show deference for elders and even mark big celebrations for 60th and 70th birthdays. Meanwhile, young people in India are taught to care for their parents and there is even a social stigma that comes with sending your parents to retirement homes.
Since 1991, the United Nations have celebrated International Day of Older Persons on October 1st to recognize the importance of senior citizens around the world and to examine issues that impact them. Celebrations include media displays, volunteer activities and many more. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s theme and what we can do to celebrate the 28th-annual event.
The Journey to Age Equality
In 2015, the UN General Assembly set the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 global goals to reach by 2030. These objectives range from ending hunger to achieving gender equality. This year’s international day for the elderly aligns with Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
The theme for this year’s elder appreciation day is “The Journey to Age Equality,” recognizing that Goal 10 can only be achieved if all ages are included. According to the UN, the number of people over age 60 are expected to increase to 1.4 billion by 2030. Since old-age disparities often reflect disadvantages such as gender, income, location, and socio-economic status, the larger demographics combined with structural changes in future generations could limit potential growth.
The goals for International Day of Older Persons include:
- To help draw attention to the existence of old age inequality, and how this often results from a cumulation of disadvantages throughout life — and highlight intergenerational risk of increased old-age inequality.
- To bring awareness to the urgency of coping with existing and preventing future old-age inequality.
- To explore societal and structural changes in view of life course policies: life-long learning, proactive and adaptive labour policies, social protection, and universal health coverage.
- To reflect on best practice, lessons and progress on the journey to ending older-age inequality and changing negative narratives and stereotypes involving “older age.”
Celebrating Old Age
On October 10, the UN and the NGO Committee on Ageing and UNDESA Programme on Ageing will organize an elders day panel at the UN’s New York headquarters. The event will address themes such as inequalities in the care sector and work/life balance. However, if you cannot make it to the event, there are plenty of other ways to celebrate international old age day.
International Day of Older Persons activities can include:
- Making a card for your elderly loved one
- Listening to your aging parents or grandparents for ways to improve their lives
- Asking for your loved one’s opinions on the current political climate
- Attending bingo night with your elderly loved one
- Hosting a scrapbooking party and reminiscing on the past
- Visiting and volunteering in a retirement community
- Reading up on and celebrating the contributions of older people in history