I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, or GAROP. I represent the Good Samaritan Social Service Trust in Tanzania, which is a member of GAROP.
GAROP asked over 1,000 older people from ten African and Asian countries what they thought about the normative elements of autonomy and independence that emerged from the 9th session of this Working Group.
Ninety per cent of older people said it was important to carry out everyday activities based on their own will and preferences. Older people gave powerful examples of what this freedom means in their daily lives, including feeling human, accomplished, having their independence even if living in a care home, and being able to connect with other people living in their community.
A 65-year-old woman in Nepal said, ‘It feels like being in prison when someone controls us.’
Ninety-one per cent of older people said that it was important to have a trusted person to support them in making decisions about their care and support. They said this means they can tell their children or family what to do should something happen to them, like a serious illness or death, or that they can arrange and direct their care and treatment services as they choose.
A 90-year-old woman from Uganda said, ‘It means I have a choice to accept what I want and refuse what I do not want.’
Older people say that the normative elements of this right should include their access to a range of care and support services to enable them to live dignified, autonomous and independent lives and be fully included in the community. The right must ensure that older people have full, effective and meaningful participation in all aspects of family, social, and economic life.
Older people also believe that this right should guarantee they have support including formal mechanisms to enable them to make their own decisions and choices, including being able to designate one or more trusted persons to assist them to make decisions based on their instructions, will and preferences.
The vast majority of older people say they want to see their right to autonomy and independence officially recognised by their governments or the United Nations. They believe that what is officially recognised works better and this would mean they are valued, accepted, and able to live freely as they had done when they were young.
As a member of GAROP, I urge Member States and all stakeholders to involve us older people in progressing the discussions on the normative elements of our human rights as the foundations of a new international legally-binding instrument.
The Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People (GAROP) is a network of over 300 civil society organisations from 80 countries working together so that all older people can live free from discrimination and are able to fully enjoy their rights. We believe a UN convention on the rights of older persons is essential for older people to fully enjoy their rights.