An Independent Expert with the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, has asked for better protection for older people under the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. Kornfeld-Matte stated that older people face a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Kornfeld-Matte is the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons (HROP) with the UN HROHC, which has said that the fastest increase in the number of older persons will take place in Africa with a projection of 215 million persons aged 60 or older by 2050. Kornfeld-Matte noted that older people do not only face a disproportionate risk of death but they are further threatened by Covid-19 due to their care support needs or by living in high-risk environments such as institutions.
The UN HROHC expert expressed particular concerns about older persons with underlying health conditions and those who are already socially excluded, living in poverty, having limited access to health services or living in confined spaces such as prisons and residential care homes. She said, ‘This social exclusion is exacerbated by “social distancing” measures, such as denying visitors to residential care homes. Social distancing must not become social exclusion. Physical distance is crucial but creative and safe ways must be found to increase social connections. Older persons must be provided with ways to stay in touch online, including those in residential care homes and remote areas’.
‘Older persons have become highly visible in the Covid-19 outbreak but their voices, opinions and concerns have not been heard. Instead, the deep-rooted ageism in our societies has become even more apparent. We have seen this in some cruel and dehumanising language on social media and in the exclusive emphasis on older persons’ vulnerability, ignoring their autonomy’, Kornfeld-Matte said.
The UN HROHC expert called on everyone to exercise solidarity and protect older persons from harm. She also pointed to the urgent need for a holistic human rights approach for older persons that ensures equal realisation of all their rights, including access to healthcare.
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