Susan B Somers is the general secretary of The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc, (INPEA) and the UN NGO coordinator for INPEA. She visited Mumbai to meet advocacy groups working for the rights of the elderly to support the creation of a UN Conven-tion on the Rights of Older Persons. On Monday, she met the students of Gerontology and Counselling of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Why is a UN convention necessary?
Every human being should be treated with dignity. Unfortunately, people aren’t always treated equally and can’t be protected without laws. We need a new convention to protect the rights of older persons, as an international convention is the ultimate legal instrument that binds countries. Existing conventions don’t address the rights of older persons. We had a meeting at the commission of social development in the UN in February on this. Our next aim is to get support.
What are the main issues the convention will address?
Two very important things are the right to freedom from all forms of discrimination and violence and the right to monetary security. Then there’s need for access to healthcare, the right to work and the right to own property, which is especially important for women, who are so often cut out from laws, which leave them with no power at all.
How do you define elder abuse?
INPEA and WHO have define abuse as an act, or a series of acts that are harmful to an older person, which are caused by someone that they have a relationship of trust with, which could even be a family member. Abuse within families is often hidden. Older people are not willing to go against their families even when they are suffering.
What is the biggest problem older people face?
Depression is a huge problem that is under recognised and under treated, though treatments are available. These issues are difficult for a family to understand, but they can meet a lot of these needs. Most write it off.
What should the government do?
Provide education to caregivers. Also, older people should have the right to work if they want to. I’m 62, and I’m retired from my government job, but I don’t want someone telling me I can’t work just because I’m too old.