The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, calls on everyone to stand up for older persons' rights on the occasion of the global UN Day of older persons. She issues the following statement:

"Today, older persons – unlike women, children, persons with disabilities and migrants or refugees – are not protected by a specific universal human rights instrument. Legal provisions taking into account the specific protection needs of older people similar to those for other groups in situations of vulnerability are currently non-existent. 

The lack of a dedicated legal instrument for older people may also explain the lack of attention to the specific challenges older men and women face in the global policy framework, including the Sustainable Development Goals, which guide the actions of the United Nations on the ground. It is primordial that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is grounded in the normative framework to ensure the inclusiveness and sustainability of the gains over time. In the midst of a demographic revolution, with the number of people aged 55 and over doubling to almost 2 billion, urgent action is required. We need to stand up now for older persons' rights. 

I regret that there seems no sense of urgency. The voices claiming the imperative to adopt a human rights-based approach to ageing, shifting the attention from a societal phenomenon to the older people themselves as rights holders, remain unheard despite the facts and figures. While we aspire to live for as long as possible, we do not want to age. Pervasive gerontophobia, the fear of age-related self-degeneration and death, nurtures prejudice against older people, discrimination and ultimately the denial of human rights in older age.

'The Journey to Age Equality' – this year's motto – should have started many years ago. States have an obligation to promote and protect the human rights of older people. We all are duty bound to ensure that future generations – our children and grandchildren – as they grow older, are seen as valuable contributors to society. Young people, those in positions of power today, need to realise that they too will age. It is for them to shape older people's reality and the future they want."

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