This year’s theme of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons 2022 addressed the ‘Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World’, with a focus on older women. This special focus recalls the key role played by older women in making our societies resilient, especially in the care sector. A role that is unfortunately not enough valued nor supported.
‘About 80% of long-term care needs in the EU are met by unpaid informal care, the vast majority of which is provided by older women’, reminded Maciej Kucharczyk, AGE Secretary-General in our press release.
This huge and vital contribution to the functioning of our societies is unfortunately not enough recognized nor supported, with harmful consequences for women when they reach old age.
‘Women carry the bulk of informal caring activities in Europe, often at the expense of their own social and professional life”, points out Eurocarers’ Director Stecy Yghemonos. Because of that, they face ‘a startling pension gap which leads to the feminisation of poverty as they age’, as states Mary Collins, Senior Policy & Advocacy Coordinator for the European Women’s Lobby.
‘It is imperative that this massive economic and social contribution to our societies is recognised, especially in terms of adequacy of women’s pensions’, adds AGE Secretary-General.
A first step toward recognition has been made in the EU Care Strategy, recently proposed by the European Commission, which ‘shows a good understanding of the barriers we face, as Ana Peláez Narváez, Secretary General of the European Disability Forum (EDF) highlights. The Strategy namely insists on the economic value of informal care, and on the need to support informal carers, while stressing the necessity to develop the formal care sector. However, as these positive considerations include no binding measures, they will be left to the goodwill of the Member States.
‘…we will have to work collectively to make the Member States act upon what it (the EU Care Strategy) proposes’, adds EDF Secretary General.
Read our press release
AGE members raised their voices
‘Society has evolved quickly in recent years and seems increasingly to consider population ageing as a burden to social protection systems rather than to value older persons as assets for their communities’, states OWN Europe, the European Older Women’s Network.
An untapped resource that should be recognised and valued for the benefit of us all, as highlights Bridget Penhale from the University of East Anglia:
‘Older women have accumulated a life time of experiences and throughout their lives develop both coping strategies (to deal with adverse circumstances) and resilience to counter and withstand future events and happenings. These are also cumulative in nature. As life-survivors their ability to pass on such knowledge and understanding is often under-estimated and under-used. To our collective detriment.’
Also in Italy, ‘the contribution of older women to the sustainability and resilience of European welfare system can’t be ignored’, said Licia Boccaletti, from Anziani e non solo. According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), ‘almost 800.000 women over 65 are caring for a vulnerable family member and more than a half of them are doing this for over 20 hours per week.’
Yet, while ‘celebrating the roles older women fulfil in their families and communities is highly relevant’, OWN Europe further stresses that this ‘should not obscure the difficulties and inequalities faced by older women, particularly the very old’.
United Nations’ celebrations: a dual focus
To mark the International Day of Older Persons 2022, the United Nations organized two events in New-York (hybdrid) and Vienna (online). Both conferences addressed the socioeconomic, environmental, and health experiences of older women, highlighting their participation in helping to build resilient societies, and the importance of their full inclusion in policy development.
You can (re)watch the recording of the New York event
The year was also marked in Geneva where another important topic was addressed: Older Persons as Active Agents in a Changing Climate. During this event, the United Nations States reminded UN states’ legal obligations and called for meaningful opportunities to be created for older persons to participate in climate action at all levels.
You can watch the recording of the Geneva’s event