Concern about older people in COVID-19 pandemic


By SAT News Desk/WHO

MELBOURNE, 19 June 2020: Older people have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders from around the world have expressed their concern about its effects on older people, communities, and society. They have also called for a response that addresses the needs and rights of older people.

Recently launching a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 and older people António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General highlighted that “our response to COVID-19 must respect the rights and dignity of older people”.He had four messages:

- “No person, young or older, is expendable. Older people have the same rights to life and death as everyone else. Difficult decisions around life-saving medical care must respect the human rights and dignity of all.

- We need improved social support and smarter efforts to reach older people.

- All social, economic, and humanitarian responses must take the needs of older people fully into account, particularly women who are more likely to live in poverty and without access to healthcare in older age.

- Let’s not treat older people as invisible or powerless. Their voices and leadership count.”

“Older people carry the collective wisdom of our societies. They are valued and valuable members of our families and communities. But they are at higher risk of the more serious complications of COVID-19. We are listening to older people and those who work with and for them, to identify how best we can support them. We need to work together to protect older people from the virus, and to ensure their needs are being met – for food, fuel, prescription medication, and human interaction. Physical distance doesn’t mean social distance. We all need to check in regularly on older parents, neighbors, friends or relatives who live alone or in care homes in whatever way is possible, so they know how much they are loved and valued, ” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General in a recent press briefing.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, spoke out about the need to ensure older people are not left behind in our response to COVID-19:

“Older adults are at a significantly increased risk of severe disease following infection from COVID-19. This is an important observation for the European Region: of the top 30 countries with the largest percentage of older people, all but one (Japan) are our Member States in Europe. The countries most affected by the pandemic are among them … Supporting and protecting older people living alone in the community is everyone’s business … I am reminding governments and authorities that all communities must be supported to deliver interventions to ensure older people have what they need. All older people should be treated with respect and dignity during these times. Remember, we leave no one behind.”

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte (Chile): Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights spoke of the unacceptability of:

“… Reports of abandoned older persons in care homes or of dead corpses found in nursing homes. Reinforcing that we all have the obligation to exercise solidarity and protect older persons from such harm.”

Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte also expressed deep concern that:

“… decisions around the allocation of scarce medical resources such as ventilators in intensive care units may be made solely on the basis of age, denying older persons their right to health and life on an equal basis with others. Triage protocols must be developed and followed to ensure such decisions are made on the basis of medical needs, the best scientific evidence available and not on non-medical criteria such as age or disability.”

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