The Rights of Older Persons: A Nonkilling View

By Prof. Francisco Gomes de Matos, a peace linguist from Recife, Brazil.

As ageing keeps increasing globally at a very fast pace, attention to the rights of the elderly is being given more attention, both internationally and nationally. Cf. The UN Principles for Older Persons and Global Action on Aging. Also see AART,American Association of Retired Workers. How do national constitutions mention the rights of older persons? How about violations or infringements of the rights of senior citizens? Interestingly, ageism entered written English in 1965, according to the Random House College Dictionary (1997 , p.27).

The checklist provided below aims at shedding an additional light on the rights of older persons, by characterizing them from the perspective of Nonkilling, as pioneeringly expressed by U.S. political scientist Glenn D. Paige in his book Nonkilling Global Political Science, downloadable from the site of the Center for Global Nonkilling (Hawaii),

Examples given are the outcome of my brainstorming. No hierarchy of importance is implied. Readers are kindly asked to add to the list and to reflect on the applicability of instances to sociocultural, educational, economic, political, and environmental contexts. The use of the verb kill is meant to impact more emphatically on readers and to ask them to probe the problematique dealt with here, in a spirit of human dignity and respect.

Older persons are killed when they are

  1. deprived of their right to Life and of their right not to be killed
  2. ignored by the health care system in the community where they live
  3. communicatively treated in negative,discriminatory ways by younger people in varied contexts such as the home,the workplace,the school, sports events.Also when they are facetiously referred to in the media.
  4. compulsorily retired from public office because of age (the author experienced that at the age of 70,as a federal university professor in Brazil)
  5. impeded applying for professional opportunities because of age (being over 35 years old, for instance). An example: scholarships for study abroad
  6. treated disrespectfully when their cognitive abilities are inaccurately and unfairly described as “deficient”, because they are too old to learn (languages,for instance)
  7. hospitalized for a serious illness,they are.inhumanly described by someone as “having lived enough or too long”. The phraseology of human communicative indignity should deserve crosscultural research,in varied contexts.
  8. denied a political right because of their longevity
  9. impeded to get on a bus (public transportation system) because of lack of appropriate facilities. Similarly,when trying to enter a building with no ramp for the physically disabled
  10. denied admittance to public shelters because of no vacancy
  11. ignored by government legislation (local, municipal, state, federal, etc.) and by private organizations` statutes, bylaws.

(received 9th August, 2010)

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