Age Demands Action

Hear our voices! Challenging ageism in the time of COVID-19.


The evidence is clear that people in older age are among those most at risk of complications from COVID-19. But, it's not just older people’s health that is at risk in this pandemic. Responses from governments and agencies risk the enjoyment of older people’s rights too.

Like the UN Secretary General said, “Beyond its immediate health impact, the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty, discrimination and isolation.”

This pandemic has exposed ageism and we have a window to campaign against it and defend older people’s human rights. We’ve heard public figures and politicians stereotype older people as frail, vulnerable and unable to make decisions for themselves, and have seen guidelines produced on how to decide who has access to medical treatment based on a person’s age.
As we grow older our lives do not become disposable. Older people are us. They are our family members, our caregivers, our workers and neighbours. We need governments to listen to what older people have to say, and ensure they have equal access to prevention measures, support and services, wherever they live.

We call on Age Demands Action campaigners to stand together to challenge ageism during the COVID-19 pandemic, give a platform to older people to have their voices heard by decisionmakers, and ensure older people are treated as equals. 

>> Download the Age Demands Action: Hear Our Voices toolkit 
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Age discrimination and ageism are still commonplace across the world and urgent action is needed to stop it.

Age Demands Action is a grassroots movement of campaigners in 60 countries. Older people meet with decision-makers and lobby their local and national governments to push the issues most important to them, such as pensions and healthcare. 
Age Demands Action campaigners are busy all year round, but focus their efforts on three key dates:

1 October: 10 years of Age Demands Action 

In Mwanza, Tanzania, older women are challenging ageism (c) Clemence Eliah/HelpAge International

(c) Clemence Eliah/HelpAge International

In Mwanza, Tanzania, older women are challenging ageism

Age Demands Action campaigners are celebrating a milestone on 1 October – International Day of Older Persons! For 10 years, ADA campaigners have raised their voices against age discrimination and fought for the rights of older people. 

On this International Day of Older Persons (IDOP), we'll be celebrating how ADA has enabled and empowered older people to take part in decision-making processes affecting their lives, from local and national levels, right up to global forums like the United Nations Open–ended Working Group on Ageing.

This year, the UN theme for IDOP is: "Stepping into the future: tapping the talents, contributions and participation of older persons in society".

But we know older people's right to participate in public and private life is still denied.

"Sometimes I feel sad and lonely, especially when I am told that what is being done is not for me because I am old" - Haybat, Iran, 69

Ageism is a barrier that affects older people being able to participate in all parts of their lives. In workplaces, older people have reported less access to salary increases and promotions, and being forced into early retirement.

And at home, older people may be denied autonomy within the family and blocked from participating in decision-making because of age discrimination.

Participation is a right

Participation in every aspect of public and private life is a fundamental right. On this International Day of Older Persons, HelpAge International and our partners are calling for policymakers to strengthen older people's right to participate in all aspects of life.

What are campaigners doing to celebrate 10 years of ADA?

  • Bolivia: Older campaigners, supported by the National Association of Senior Citizens of Bolivia and Horizons Foundation, will be reaching out to the media to highlight the need for a new UN convention to protect older people's rights.
  • The Philippines: Our partner COSE has organised their annual Walk for Life event to celebrate 10 years of ADA.
  • Sri Lanka: HelpAge Sri Lanka is holding an older people's walk and rally will take place.
  • Tajikistan: The Central-Asia Gerontology Centre is organising seminars with older people to gather information about the impact of ADA on their lives.
  • Tanzania: The Good Samaritan Social Service Trust will organise a tripartite meeting between older people, human rights defenders and the Tanzania Government to discuss human rights issues affecting older people.

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15 June: Age Demands Action on Rights

Older campaigner Kenneth Hemley making an intervention at the UN Open-ended Working Group (c) HelpAge International

(c) HelpAge International

Older campaigner Kenneth Hemley making an intervention at the UN Open-ended Working Group

On 15 June, UN's World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Age Demands Action campaigners come together to call for their rights to be protected.

Responses to the problem of elder abuse are inadequate. Less than one-third of governments worldwide have implemented any sort of strategy to combat this problem. There are no international human rights standards or conventions on freedom from violence and abuse in older age.

For this reason, Age Demands Action on Rights takes place every year on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June. It is a key date for older men and women to come together to raise awareness about elder abuse and to campaign on the need to protect their rights under international law. Together, they are calling for their governments to support a new UN convention on the rights of older people.

In 2017, 40 organisations across 35 countries took part. Below are examples of what partners are doing to raise awareness about elder abuse:

  • Malawi Network of Older Persons Organisations (MANEPO) drew attention to witchcraft accusations using dance, drama and organising a march with a police band to draw in crowds.
  • Ageing Nepal brought together the community and local leaders with two elder abuse awareness-raising sessions to audiences of different ages, as well as asking people to sign a petition demanding their government to attend this year's Open-ended Working Group on Ageing.
  • In Bosnia and Herzegovina, OSMIJEH arranged for older people representatives and civil society organisations to meet with the Ministry of Human Rights to discuss older people's fight against discrimination, violence and abuse, and older people spoke directly to the media about their experiences.
  • HelpAge Kenya focused on educating younger people about elder abuse through a short film and discussion, with older people sharing their views.

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7 April: Age Demands Action on Health

A younger activist joins up with older people for an ADA on Health march in Thailand (c) HelpAge International/FOPDEV

(c) HelpAge International/FOPDEV

A younger activist joins up with older people for an ADA on Health march in Thailand

On World Health Day (7 April), Age Demands Action activists around the world campaign for better healthcare. 

This year we are calling on older men and women to demand that their rights to long-term care and support, and palliative care are recognised. 

Older people's care and support

Access to the right care and support in older age is vital to help us maintain quality of life. They help older people get by day-to-day with tasks like eating, washing and getting out of the home. It can be crucial in helping maintain our independence.

Palliative care, meanwhile, can bring people comfort when going through a life-threatning illness by relieving pain and supporting psychological, social or spiritual needs.

Yet many older people have little access to or control over the care and support services they need to live independent lives. And palliative care services are hard to access or, in many cases, do not exist at all. 

Our new report Freedom to decide for ourselves explores older people's experiences of accessing long-term care and support, and palliative care. HelpAge's network members held focus groups with 450 older people across the world, and our campaigners will be using the findings when they campaign on World Health Day.

Age Demands Action campaigner activity

This year, 40 Age Demands Action campaign partners are mobilising around the world.

  • In Uganda, older people will join consciousness-raising workshops to discuss to discuss their experiences of long-term care and support, and palliative care.
  • In Nepal, older people will be reciting poetry on issues affecting them.
  • In Modolva, mobile health tents will be set up in rural communities where older people can access information on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.


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