How can the European Union Advance Age Equality and Fight Ageism for People of All Ages?
On 29 March 2022, AGE Platform Europe, the United Nations Human Rights Regional Office for Europe, European Youth Forum, and the World Health Organization co-organised a Working Meeting on Equality for all Ages in the EU. Different stakeholders gathered to exchange ideas on how to use the EU policy framework on ageing and youth to advance age equality and fight ageism for people of all ages.
Ageism is everywhere and against everyone
In its Global Report on Ageism, the United Nations (UN) defines ageism as ‘stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) on the basis of age. It can be institutional, interpersonal or self-directed. Ageism starts in childhood and is reinforced over time’. In other words, ageism is socially constructed and can affect people of all ages. Ageism has devastating impacts as it might affect social well-being, reduce quality of life, lead to poor mental and physical health, and eventually earlier death.
Nothing About Us Without Us – Intergenerational Solidarity between Young and Older People
Young and older people both suffer from age discriminations. One of the policy areas in which they are excluded include participation. The European Youth Forum is notably advocated for an EU Youth test to ensure young people are fully accounted across the life course and fully engaged in all policy-making areas and at all stages. In our 2021 Barometer, we explained that older persons are active citizens who take part in elections in a larger share than other age groups in many Member States. However, the systematic consultation of representative organisations of older persons in all matters affecting them is not a common practice. Both young and older people must be included in all stages of policymaking as holders of human rights who fully contribute to the society. There are other barriers that older persons with disabilities and from different ethnic minority backgrounds face, highlighting the fact that older persons are a diverse group who experience multiple and intersectional discriminations. During the event, stakeholders highlighted the crucial need of fostering intergenerational exchange and solidarity as to eliminate age-based discriminations that affect people of all ages. Ageism is a socially ingrained inequality, but governments and international institutions can develop strategies as to prevent and reduce it.
A lack of policy and legal framework at EU level
The United Nations (UN) Global Report on Ageism found that in addition to intergenerational contact interventions and education, policies and laws are the most effective strategies to prevent and reduce ageism within our societies.
In her article on The European Union’s Approach towards Ageism, AGE Human Rights Manager Nena Georgantzi explains that ‘according to its treaties, the EU has a duty to combat discrimination (Article 3§3, Treaty on the European Union 2012), but there is no language explicitly stipulating the need to fight ageism in all its forms or to address comprehensively the social construct of old age that is entrenched in European society’. The lack of policy and legal framework was discussed during the event, where stakeholders emphasized the need for the adoption of new instruments at local, national, and international levels as to ensure that human rights of older persons are respected and fulfilled. In her Report on ageism and age discrimination, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons also mentions that international human rights law lacks a clear and comprehensive prohibition of age and that only two UN Conventions contain explicit references to age discrimination: the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This is why AGE Platform Europe is advocating for the adoption of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons as well as an Age Equality Strategy at European level. Normative gaps exist both at European and UN levels and it is time that human rights and the fight against ageism for people of all ages be prioritised at all levels.
For further information, please contact Apolline Parel, AGE Human Rights Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org