Older Persons & Covid-19

28 July 2020

UNFPA Youtube Live

Stregthening health & rights through collective action

Join UNFPA ED Dr. Natalia Kanem and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday, 28 July 2020 16:30-17:30 CET (Geneva), 10:30-11:30 EDT (New York) to talk about Older Persons & COVID-19: Strengthening health & rights through collective action. Add the event to your Google Calendar here and join the livestream via YouTube at http://unf.pa/olderpersonscovid19 


COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the health and rights of older persons in society. While the virus spreads among persons of all ages, older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. Symptomatic individuals in their seventies are twenty times more likely to require hospitalization than young adults, and case fatality rates suggest a notable increase in risk after age 60, with progressively worse outcomes at older ages. Less visible but no less worrisome are the broader effects of the global crisis: health care denied for conditions unrelated to COVID-19; neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities; the increase in poverty and unemployment; the dramatic impact on well-being and mental health; and the trauma of stigma and discrimination. As the pandemic spreads across low, middle and high income countries, the needs of older persons may also differ, and severe disease and mortality rates for older persons may increase even further if fragile health and social protection systems are overwhelmed.

Efforts to protect older persons should not overlook the diversity of older persons, their resilience and positivity, and the multiple roles they play in society, including as producers, caregivers, volunteers and leaders. We must also recognize their important contributions to the current crisis, including as health workers and care providers. Their contributions underpin our society, before, during and beyond COVID-19. Many actors – States, businesses, international organizations, civil society and community groups and older persons themselves – have been actively drawing attention to their challenges and needs, delivering services at community level and ensuring that older people’s voices and opinions are heard.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations has given priority to the needs of older persons in its collective preparedness and response action at global, regional and country level. The UN Secretary-General’s Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Older Persons underscores the imperative of protecting the human rights of older persons and responding to their specific needs. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (UNDESA) Issue Brief on Older Persons and COVID-19 draws attention to the specific challenges and needs of older persons in the pandemic. The United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Technical Brief on Implications of COVID-19 for Older Persons provides guidance to UN Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams on scaling up urgent measures for older persons, in keeping with the UNFPA COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. In addition to its COVID-19 Strategy, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) technical guidance on infection prevention and control, clinical management, and maintaining essential health services, including community-based health care, all cover older persons, as does its brief on COVID-19 and violence against older people. All of these documents provide recommendations for practical actions that countries can take at local, national and regional  levels to address the needs of older persons, and to support the Decade of Healthy Ageing, a broader inter-agency initiative led by WHO. 



Moderator Raj Kumar, Founding President and Editor-in-Chief, DEVEX

Setting the scene

●      Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO

●      Dr Natalia Kanem, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNFPA

Voices from countries and communities


●      Arun Maira, Chair of the Board, HelpAge International

●      Dr Alex Kalache, President of International Longevity Centre, Brazil 

●      Ms Christine Umutoni, Resident Coordinator Mauritius and Seychelles 

●      Dr Naeema Al Gasseer, Senior Advisor to World Health Organization Regional Director at Eastern Mediterranean Region

●      Dr Octavio Vergara, Director of the National Services for Elderly, Government of Chile


Commitments for collective action

●      Ms Laila Baker, Regional Director, Arab States, Development Coordination Office

●      Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Older Persons

●      Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
●      Dr Natalia Kanem, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNFPA


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