Is there a human right to age in dignity? Some countries think so. Unfortunately, the United States isn’t one of them.
The Organization of American States (OAS) recently adopted the first international convention on the human rights of older people (though the United States did not endorse it). The Organization of African Unity (OAU) is debating its own convention, and is expected to adopt it next year.
It is ironic that the world’s poorer countries, presumably those with the fewest resources to deal with aging, are in the vanguard of establishing this set of rights. Meanwhile, the richest countries with the most resources, including the United States and members of the European Union, are arguing against applying a human-rights framework to aging. In part, their contrarian stance reflects the dominance of market ideology. In a corporate economy, people lose their social importance and position when they are not working and producing value. In the United States, the resulting set of priorities has a devastating impact on older people.
While some countries are creating a new definition of human rights to include aging, and passing conventions that incorporate it, millions of seniors in the United States live in very vulnerable and precarious conditions, which are violations of their human rights as viewed in this context.