Consider older persons’ right to palliative care when “re-thinking our cities”

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Ms Kornfeld-Matte said: “We need to re-think our cities. Over 900 million older persons will be living in cities across the world by 2050, but our cities are not fit for this global demographic revolution. 

“The existing barriers in public spaces and buildings, as well as the lack of safe, affordable, accessible and barrier-free housing and transportation obstruct older persons from fully enjoying their rights and from living in dignity and safety in their communities.”

Older persons, particularly older women, are among the most vulnerable people on the planet, and as the global population ages, the vulnerability of this group is projected to increase.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that people aged 60 and older currently make up over 11 per cent of the global population. This number is projected to increase to 22 per cent by 2050.

The majority (69%) of people needing palliative care at the end of life are older people. Yet, in many countries, older people living with incurable illness have inadequate access to hospice and palliative care.

Recently, the Organization of American States (OAS) drafted a convention protecting the human rights of older persons that also established for the first time a right to access to palliative care.

The Open Ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWGA) is focused on advancing the rights of older persons worldwide. Palliative care has been part of this group’s discussions and should continue to be included if the rights of older persons are to be met.

The rights of older people, along with those of other citizens inform initiatives around the world working to develop ‘compassionate communities’, aiming to create a safe and caring space for all citizens.

The Compassionate Cities Charter, launched at the 4th International Public Health and Palliative Care conference in May, calls for an urban community where all actors and institutions are responsible for the care of its citizens.

It states: “Compassionate Cities are communities that recognise that all natural cycles of sickness and health, birth and death, and love and loss occur everyday within the orbits of its institutions and regular activities. A compassionate city is a community that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

The Charter is made up of a series of principles  which can be applied by, state institutions, workplaces, care organisations, the charitable sector and communities themselves can work together to make caring at end of life into bereavement, everyone’s responsibility, finding practical ways to help on a variety of different levels.

Ms Kornfeld-Matte concluded her statement, saying: “The Third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), which will take place in 2016, will be an important occasion for States and other parties to renew their commitments to protect and promote the rights of older persons in urban related context. And I strongly urge all States to include an age perspective and a human rights-based approach into the New Urban Agenda as a matter of priority.”

For more information on global civil society organisations active to protect the rights of older persons see Help Age International; the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older Persons; and Global Action on Ageing.

For more information on palliative care, visit the websites of the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care and the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance

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