United Nation International Day of Older Persons
Today is the United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons. Across the world, the population is changing. The United Nations’ own figures show that almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, two billion people – over 20 per cent of the world’s population – will be 60 or older.
Earlier this year, I had the honour to be appointed as the first Minister for Older People and Equalities and I’m determined to focus on the positive contribution that older people make in Scotland.
Older people are an essential part of the vibrant country that we live in and contribute in often hidden ways such as by volunteering or caring, supporting their families and their wider communities.
We need to build on that contribution and tackle head on any misconceptions about older people being a burden on our society. That’s why I’m looking forward to continuing my work with a range of older people’s organisations that champion older people’s rights, through our Older People’s Strategic Forum.
With them I want to explore how we can develop solutions for the parts of older people’s lives that need to be improved. That means addressing the negative perceptions that older people can face; as we can’t make lasting change without fully exploring those issues.
That is why at the most recent meeting of the Forum I was pleased to be able to make £50,000 available, so that the members can talk further with older people across the country and help us develop a framework of policy that will make a real and lasting difference to their lives.
In doing that we’re starting from a strong base. The Scottish Government has already provided almost half a million pounds this year to older people’s organisations to, amongst other things, promote older people’s rights and equality.
We have also protected the Concessionary Travel schemes which helps older people maintain their independence and helps to prevent people becoming isolated.
We know that social isolation and loneliness has a disproportionate effect on older people. There is a link between loneliness and poor physical and mental health and this can have a serious impact on everyday life.
Scotland is leading the way when it comes to tackling this. We are the first country in the UK and one of the first in the world to publish a national strategy to tackle the issues around isolation and loneliness. The Scottish Government has, quite rightly, an important role to play but we want communities and society to lead it. We believe communities themselves are best placed to ensure people who may be at risk of becoming isolated or lonely can access the support they require. The strategy will give the communities the resources they need to help.
The UN Principles for Older Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in 1991, include dignity, independence, participation, care and self-fulfilment. So it’s vital that we celebrate and value our older people, making sure they have the opportunity to lead the best life they can, feel respected and listened to. All of this is central to our ambitions for creating a fairer Scotland.