AGE highlights specific barriers faced by older persons with disabilities in UN Committee work

AGE seized the opportunity to influence the interpretation of two articles of the United Nations (UN) disability Convention, which is done through a so-called ‘general comment’, a document clarifying how the rights included in the Convention must be put in practice.

UN Convention CRPD logo The Committee that oversees the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) decided to prepare General Comments on the rights to independent living (article 19) and equality and non-discrimination (article 5). General Comments are meant to clarify the content of the provisions of the Convention by defining central concepts, detailing States parties’ obligations and outlining key elements for national implementation.

Equal treatment of older persons with disabilities

Article 5 enshrines a right to equal treatment for persons with disabilities by calling for the elimination of discriminatory laws, policies and as well as the development of proactive policies for achieving equality for persons with disabilities. In our submission we highlighted that all too often double standards apply in law and practice, excluding older people from some benefits, applying different eligibility criteria or giving less support when disability occurs in old age. Moreover, when ageism interferes with disability assessments, older people are not offered the same level, quality or ranges of support as younger people with disabilities. Such different treatment reflects a view according to which ‘because you are old you are not disabled’ or ‘you are disabled, but you do not need the same level of support because older people are not so active anymore’. Despite clearly being discriminatory such practices are not only tolerated but often also established by legal norms.

Barriers to independent and community living for disability in old age

Article 19 is about the right to choose one’s place of residence, to remain independent and be included in the community. However, the scope of these rights and the extent to which they are compatible with residential care settings is controversial. This is why in our submission we stressed that isolation, abuse and neglect of older persons is independent of setting and that older people should have a right to choose in a residential care should they so wish. We moreover, drew attention to the existing gaps that impede older people from accessing quality, person-centered and affordable care and put a lot of burden on informal caregivers. In our amendments we also drew attention to several gaps and inconsistencies that need to be remedied in the final draft of the General Comment.

Next steps

The Committee will review all the received submissions and will also hold a consultation on equality and non-discrimination. Stakeholders views should be integrated in the text of the two General Comments. AGE will follow the UN discussions to make sure that the lived experience of older persons with disabilities in taken into account by the Committee.

More information

For more information you may contact Nena Georgantzi, Human Rights Officer:

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