International & National Principles, Rights and Responsibilities
of Older Persons
International Statements - UN Principles for Older Persons
Although the UN World Assembly on Aging adopted a very sophisticated
and far-reaching International Plan of Action on Aging in 1982,
it was not a document that spoke to the hearts and minds of most
older persons, nor was it widely disseminated to the general public.
Further, while the UN over the years had enacted a number of human
rights instruments protecting the rights of special groups, none
addressed the situation of older persons. As a result, a non-governmental
organization, the International Federation on Ageing, developed
a Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Older Persons
in consultation with a large number of groups representing or
working with older persons around the world which could fill this
important gap. This document formed the basis for the adoption
of the UN Principles for Older Persons.
UNITED NATIONS PRINCIPLES FOR OLDER PERSONS
(adopted by the UN General Assembly December 16, 1991 - Resolution
To add life to the years that have been added to life
The General Assembly,
Appreciating the contribution that older persons make to their
Recognizing that, in the Charter of the United Nations, the peoples
of the United Nations declare, inter alia, their determination
to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity
and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and
women and of nations large and small and to promote social progress
and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Noting the elaboration of those rights in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and other declarations to ensure the application
of universal standards to particular groups,
In pursuance of the International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted
by the World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed by the General Assembly
in its resolution 37/51 of 3 December 1982,
Appreciating the tremendous diversity in the situation of older
persons, not only between countries but within countries and between
individuals, which requires a variety of policy responses,
Aware that in all countries, individuals are reaching an advanced
age in greater numbers and in better health than ever before,
Aware of the scientific research disproving many stereotypes
about inevitable and irreversible declines with age,
Convinced that in a world characterized by an increasing number
and proportion of older persons, opportunities must be provided
for willing and capable older persons to participate in and contribute
to the ongoing activities of society,
Mindful that the strains on family life in both developed and
developing countries require support for those providing care
to frail older persons,
Bearing in mind the standards already set by the International
Plan of Action on Ageing and the conventions, recommendations
and resolutions of the International Labour Organisation, the
World Health Organization and other United Nations entities,
Encourages Governments to incorporate the following principles
into their national programmes whenever possible:
1. Older persons should have access to adequate food, water,
shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income,
family and community support and self-help.
2. Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have
access to other income-generating opportunities.
3. Older persons should be able to participate in determining
when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.
4. Older persons should have access to appropriate educational
and training programmes.
5. Older persons should be able to live in environments that
are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
6. Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long
7. Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate
actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that
directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and
skills with younger generations.
8. Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities
for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions
appropriate to their interests and capabilities.
9. Older persons should be able to form movements or associations
of older persons.
10. Older persons should benefit from family and community care
and protection in accordance with each society's system of cultural
11. Older persons should have access to health care to help them
to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and
emotional well-being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.
12. Older persons should have access to social and legal services
to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.
13. Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels
of institutional care providing protection, rehabilitation and
social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment.
14. Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental
freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility,
including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy
and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality
of their lives.
15. Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for
the full development of their potential.
16. Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural,
spiritual and recreational resources of society.
17. Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security
and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.
18. Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age,
gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status,
and be valued independently of their economic contribution.
For further information, contact:
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development
Division for Social Policy and Development:
UN Focal Point for the International Year of Older Persons, 1999
Room DC2-1358, 2 UN Plaza
New York, NY 10017
USA Fax: (212) 963 - 3062