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UN Chief Says World Should Take Care of Elderly People

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses journalists at the U.N.General Assembly in New York.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses journalists at the U.N.General Assembly in New York.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says rapid urbanization and ageing populations are combining to dramatically change the face of the world’s cities in the coming decades.

In a message delivered to mark the 25th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons at the ongoing 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Mr. Ban said: “Older persons are an enormous asset to society and make a significant contribution to global development.”

He added that in implementing the newly-adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals countries must account for the demographic changes of the next 15 years.

"These will have a direct bearing on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said the UN chief.

According to census figures, Zimbabwe, which has an average life expectancy rate of 57.05 years, only 200 people are above 100 years old.

The country’s average life expectancy is ranked 204 in the world.

In a separate statement, the UN Human Rights Commission chief, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, said: “We need to re-think our cities. Over 900 million older persons will be living in cities across the world by 2050, but our cities are not fit for this global demographic revolution.”

She said the existing barriers in public spaces and buildings, as well as the lack of safe, affordable, accessible and barrier-free housing and transportation obstruct elderly people from fully enjoying their rights and from living in dignity and safely in their communities.

“Urban spaces and design often exacerbate segregation and the exclusion of older persons,” the expert said, adding that this becomes increasingly visible during recovery after disasters and emergency situations in the face of climate change.

Echoing the secretary-general’s call to ensure such matters are addressed during implementation of the SDGs, Ms. Kornfeld-Matte urged states to improve housing, transportation and building programmes to carter for the elderly.

“For cities and environments to be age-friendly, the effective implementation of comprehensive and inter-sectorial policies and planning is required. Regulatory procedures, building codes and mortgage regulations need to take into account the concerns of older persons and reflect their diversity,” she said.

The UNGA comes to and end on Friday.