October 1st is declared to be the International Day of Older Persons, the resolution were passed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 14th 1990, where a set of principles were formulated, focusing on older people rights in claiming adequate health provisions, social care, suitable residential areas, basic necessities of food and water, as well as their right to be integrated into family and society, where they can enjoy their rights, demand respect and protected against all form of rights’ denial and abuse.
Issues of human rights for older persons were taken up in 1991 in the formulation of the United Nations Principles for Older Persons, which provided guidance in the areas of independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity. In 2002 the International Plan of Action on Aging called for changes in attitudes, policies, and practices at all levels in all sectors so that the enormous potential of ageing in the twenty-first century may be fulfilled.
In 2007, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights developed a set of guidelines to guide states in implementing their obligations and calls for protecting and promoting the rights of older persons. Based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Older Persons, the World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted a strategy and established a framework for older persons, inviting International governmental and non-governmental organizations to contribute to achieve their vision and strategy in offering support and care to elderlies and providing them with equitable services. In addition, WHO emphasized on the importance of supporting research, data and knowledge exchange related to elderlies.
Older persons are increasing in number and make up a growing share of the population in virtually every country with a percentage of 9%. And it’s predicted that by 2050, this percentage will increase reaching nearly 22% of the global population. This also applies to the Palestinian reality where the number of elderly aged 60 years and above, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for 2019, reached 257,151 persons (5%): 169,503 persons (6%) in the west bank and 87,648 persons (4%) in Gaza Strip, and these percentages are estimated to increase after 2020. Census data showed that 15.9% of households are headed by an elderly person in Palestine (16.8% in the
West Bank and 14% in Gaza Strip); the data also indicated that 39% of the elderly are with difficulties/disabilities.
In mid-year 2019, the number of the elderly males reached 122,000 persons: (5%) of the total male population in Palestine, and 135,000 elderly females (6%) of the total female population, with a sex ratio of around 91 males to 100 females.
The demographic shifts in Palestine and the growing elderly population indicates that the percentage of Palestinians aged 65 and older will witness an increase in chronic health conditions, facing the challenge of living with multiple health problems and functional impairment. The prevalence of these major chronic diseases among the elderly is five times higher than that observed in younger people. Life expectancy increases, and the elderly is the fastest growing age group in the population. Over the coming decades, the trends in health status of the elderly will affect the demand for health and social care and thus affecting the resources needed to deliver quality services. Health of the elderly will be improved as life expectancy increases and counteract a rising need for health and social care.
At the present time, and along with the demographic transition, the occupied Palestinian territories are experiencing a protracted epidemiological transition causing a change in disease patterns from communicable diseases to Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis. In both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, NCDs including heart diseases, cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, are a major causes of death. The Ministry of Health recently stated in a report on the leading causes of health, that cardiovascular diseases are still the leading cause of death, and that 82.5% of deaths are due to heart diseases for people aged 60 years or over.
Despite the accession of the State of Palestine in 2015 to International Human Rights Conventions and treaties, there’s still no legal and dedicated protection regime for older people’s rights, and since 2012 elderly laws are not put into effect or implemented, and they are still suffering from weak protection systems, health and social care, and weak preventive medical care and rehabilitation services, thus increasing the direct costs of care and the indirect costs leading to the of loss of productivity, and social and economic burden. The Palestinian government should assume its responsibility towards the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of elderlies, recognizing them as active agents of societal development in order to achieve truly transformative,
inclusive and sustainable development outcomes. In that regard, a number of recommendations are provided below that aims to develop and promote respect, protection and rights fulfillment for elderlies:
1. Re-consider facilitating a community dialogue on the 2012 Elderly laws and review it in line with international human rights conventions and treaties.
2. Adopt plans and policies for services provided to the elderly, improving health and rehabilitation services, and preventive medical care.
3. Determine treatment criteria of the elderly in primary, secondary and tertiary health care centers, ensuring quality of services and care.
4. Develop a database and surveys on the situations of older persons in Palestine and identifying gaps that currently exist for health and social protection.