Older people in emergencies: the UN draws attention to the problem

Пожилые люди в чрезвычайных ситуациях: в ООН привлекают внимание к проблеме

An elderly woman in a collective accommodation center in Kharkov. Older people in emergencies: the UN draws attention to the problem Human rights

Emergencies such as natural disasters, pandemics or armed conflicts affect older people disproportionately, increasing their vulnerability. The situation in Ukraine only confirms these sad statistics. This is what the UN reminds us on the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is celebrated on June 15.

This year, the Day is dedicated to the theme “Elderly Awareness in Emergencies,” which emphasizes the need to protect and support older people during crises.

The war was a blow to the entire population of Ukraine, but elderly residents of the country were among the most affected. Although they make up 25 percent of the population, people over 60 accounted for 32 percent of civilian deaths in the year following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. These are the data provided by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission.

The situation of elderly Ukrainians

Overall, the fighting, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and a devastated economy have seriously undermined the rights of Ukraine’s elderly. A quarter of the country’s population is over 60, and more than 1.7 million people are over 80. In addition, about 80 percent of single pensioners, most of whom are women, live below the poverty line. With Ukrainian women living on average 10 years longer than men, they make up two-thirds of those aged 65 and over.

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Older people in areas affected by the fighting on both sides of the front line not only face immediate threats to their lives, but also suffer from food shortages, inadequate housing, power outages, water supply interruptions and limited access to health care, medicines and pensions, which are often their only source of income.

People with disabilities mobility

All these factors have made older Ukrainians more vulnerable and undermined their right to a normal life, and this is especially true during the winter months. People with limited mobility have been hit hardest.

Older people tend to have a harder time getting to air raid shelters, and many are unable to leave the house without help, putting them at extremely high risk during shelling. The UN Monitoring Mission documented several cases of elderly people dying because they were unable to reach shelter or did not receive the necessary assistance.

In March 2022, when Russian military forces have occupied the town of Izyum, and a disabled woman aged about 65 was burned alive after the house she lived in came under fire, causing a fire. Her leg was amputated and she was unable to quickly get out of the house.

UN human rights activists have also documented cases in which older people were forced to remain in basements for long periods of time in conditions that undermined their health. In April 2022, while Izyum was under intense artillery fire, an 83-year-old woman died in a shelter due to lack of food, water, medicine and proper medical care.

B In other cases, elderly people were unable to come out of shelter due to lack of assistance. For example, in June 2022, a 74-year-old woman with arthritis who lived alone in the Kharkov region was trapped in her basement until her daughter and son-in-law were able to come and help her out – ten days after the shelling stopped.

World Day

On Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the UN emphasizes the importance of education and training for first responders, caregivers and the general public. By raising awareness of the specific challenges older people face in emergency situations, we can help create more inclusive and protective environments.

Пожилые люди в чрезвычайных ситуациях: в ООН привлекают внимание к проблеме

Global Statistics

It is estimated that by 2050, one in six people in the world will be over the age of 65.

At the same time, approximately every sixth person aged 60 years and older has experienced negative attitudes towards themselves in public places over the past year. Elder abuse can cause serious physical injury and long-term psychological consequences.

Elder abuse cases are projected to increase as many countries experience rapid aging population.

Additionally, worldwide, 82 percent of deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic have occurred in people aged 60 years and older.


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