Statement of Commissioner Karen S. Gomez Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons, on the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons

Statement of Commissioner Karen S. Gomez Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons, on the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons

The Commission on Human Rights joins in commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. The theme for this year’s dedicatory occasion is: “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?”, which intends to raise awareness on the special health needs of older persons and the promotion of healthy ageing, understanding the impact of COVID-19 on older persons and on healthcare policy, planning, and attitudes, and acknowledgement of the contribution of older persons to their own health and the different roles they play in the phases of response and preparedness in the current and upcoming pandemics.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified older persons (or those 60 years old and above) as among the sectors who appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely sick with the COVID-19. It is important to perceive and comprehend the specific dangers that older persons face in the current circumstance and to guarantee that older persons are not left behind.

Some older persons are more susceptible to the COVID-19 because of physical reasons. For one, they don’t have as strong an immune system, so they are more susceptible to infectious illnesses. However, the vulnerability of some older persons to the COVID-19 is not completely inherent to the consequences of an ageing body. Some older persons are also more vulnerable because of social and economic reasons. Even without the current pandemic, some older Filipinos are economically vulnerable. According to official poverty estimates, 16% of older Filipinos are poor and a much larger proportion of older Filipinos live in a situation of economic insecurity just above the poverty line. This makes access to health care facilities, goods, and services particularly difficult. With reports claiming incidence of domestic violence and neglect increasing during quarantine periods, a vast number of at-risk older persons – particularly those with advanced ages, disability, and who are care-dependent – will be endangered.

The Commission reminds the State of its international human rights obligations to protect, respect, and fulfill the human rights of older persons which are at risk of being violated if current vulnerabilities are not recognized and addressed. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the Philippines is a state party, provides clear standards on the obligations of the State on the right to health, the right to social security, and the right to the highest attainable standard of living of older persons. Pursuant to the ICESCR, the State must:

-Ensure adequate and appropriate guidance to frontline workers are to be made available;
-Make health care facilities, goods, and services (in sufficient quantity) available and accessible;
-Provide crisis intervention services for mental health and psychological support including the use of ICT tools;
-Combat ageist policies and ensure health interventions are non-discriminatory;
-Intensify information dissemination efforts targeted to older persons;
-Ensure adequate and appropriate food relief;
-Ensure access to safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions;
-Adopt policy measures to buffer the economic impacts of COVID-19 to older workers in the informal sector and other poor older persons;
-Expedite the distribution of social pension through alternative modes;
-Ensure inclusion of older persons in the Emergency Subsidy Program;
-Avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement;
-Harness the role of civil society and non-government organizations; and
-Promote inter-generational solidarity.

As we commemorate the International Day of Older Persons, the Commission will continue to uphold the rights of all older Filipinos. Let us offer back to our elders the assurance, dignity and love that they merit.

*****
See the full advisory on the rights of older persons amid the COVID-19 pandemic here: https://chr2bucket.storage.googleapis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/08165545/Advisory-on-the-Human-Rights-of-Older-Filipinos-amid-the-Coronavirus-Disease-2019-Pandemic-CHR-V-A2020-07.pdf

Sources:
2020 UNIDOP: “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?” For Ageing. (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/ageing/international-day-of-older-persons-homepage/2020unidop.html

2020 Commission on Human Rights. “Advisory on the Human Rights of Older Filipinos amid the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic” (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://chr2bucket.storage.googleapis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/08165545/Advisory-on-the-Human-Rights-of-Older-Filipinos-amid-the-Coronavirus-Disease-2019-Pandemic-CHR-V-A2020-07.pdf