Thursday, September 28, 2023
Alan Gutterman, Ageism and Older Women,
According to estimates based on data compiled and analyzed by the World Bank, the global population of women aged 65 and over as of 2020 was 397 million (an increase of 106 million from a decade earlier), representing 55% of the total global population of persons aged 65 and over (722 million) and 10.35% of the world’s total female population (compared to 8.5% a decade earlier). In 2009, the UN projected that the number of older women living in less developed regions would increase by 600 million within the period 2010 to 2050. When just five years is added to the definition of “older women” the size of the group becomes even more impressive, with data showing that the global population of women age 60+ was 605 million as of 2020 and is expected to reach 1.14 billion by 2050.
The World Health Organization has called the “feminization of aging” one of the central challenges to be addressed by its program of “active aging”, noting that while women have the advantage in length of life, they are more likely than men to experience domestic violence and discrimination in access to education, income, food, meaningful work, health care, inheritances, social security measures and political power, and thus more likely than men to be poor and to suffer disabilities in older age. The UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Older Persons has observed that the combination of ageism and sexism has a unique and aggravating effect on discrimination and inequality which leads to older women being disproportionately affected by some health conditions, including depression, and suffering from the impact of gender inequalities in older age that manifest in multiple aspects, including legal status, access and control of property and land, access to credit, and inheritance rights.
There is no international treaty or convention that specifically covers the human rights of older persons, but older women have been called out for special attention in various human rights instruments and declarations. Of course, older women are entitled to all of the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which are applicable to all stages of a woman’s life, and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has argued that full development and advancement of women, including the enjoyment of human rights by older women, can only be achieved through a “life-cycle approach that recognizes and addresses the different stages of women’s lives −from childhood through adolescence, adulthood and old age−“, since the cumulative impact of those stages is so readily apparent when assessing the lives and needs of older women from a human rights perspective.
This work discusses ageism and gender and realization of the human rights of older women and covers a range of subjects including legal and policy frameworks; health; housing; work; education and lifelong learning; participation in political and decision-making processes; poverty, economic empowerment and property rights; participation in community activities; gender stereotyping and ageist myths; caregiving and families; abuse, violence and neglect; access to justice; emergencies; older women as members of various vulnerable sub-groups (e.g., rural older women, refugees and older lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women); intergenerational solidarity; and the role of businesses and entrepreneurs in the realization of the human rights of older women.