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UN expert calls for action on rights of older persons

Graphic: An older woman folds her hands on her lap

The UN Independent Expert Rosa Kornfeld-Matte conducted her country visit to New Zealand from 2-12 March 2020.

While commending the New Zealand Government for its commitment to improve the situation of older persons, a UN expert has concluded her visit to the country by calling for additional human rights action for older persons.

"I welcome the new comprehensive strategy entitled 'Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034 - and I encourage the Government to make its pledge a reality," said Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons.

"I commend the Government for the superannuation, a universal income support paid to all older persons meeting basic residency requirements. But I note the large group of older persons who have little or no additional income apart from it. This makes them very vulnerable to any changes in policy or economic circumstances.

"With declining home ownership rates, the number of older persons facing material hardship will increase. I encourage the Government to start to reinvest in affordable housing to address the growing housing needs of older persons," she said.

"As the proportion of older persons in need of long-term care will continue to grow, I understand that a doubling of overall long-term care costs by 2050 is projected. An important gap of long-term care workers will arise unless the Government adopts substantial measures," Kornfeld-Matte said.

"The Government must also intensify its efforts to address what seem to be structural biases in the health care system and to ensure that the needs of Maori and Pasifika are adequately integrated in health and care policies. It is not acceptable that Maori and Pasifika have shorter life expectancy and higher disability rates in general," she stressed.

The UN expert welcomed the dedicated institutional structures such as the Minister of Seniors and the Office for Seniors.

"Moreover, I would suggest establishing an independent national commissioner on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission."

The Independent Expert noted that rates of family and sexual violence are of major concern. "While the Government has taken important steps to improve the situation, such as the adoption the Family Violence Bill, the continued prevalence of violence against older persons indicates that normative action is not enough," she said.

Date: 12 March 2020

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission

Image credits

  1. An older woman folds her hands on her lap - Cristian Newman on Unsplash