For information only - not an official document.
    26 September 2000
 Secretary-General’s Message Marking International Day of Older Persons

1 October 2000

NEW YORK, 25 September (UN Headquarters) – Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons, celebrated on 1 October:

 One in 10 persons today is over the age of sixty.  By 2050, this proportion will have doubled to one in five.  One of the major challenges of the new century is for us all, as a global community, to adapt to this demographic revolution.

 The task before us is to build on the momentum generated by the International Year of Older Persons (1999).  We need nothing less than a dramatic reorientation of attitudes, ideas and policies towards ageing.  Rigid and dismissive notions of "age" and "ageing" have no place in today's world.  We need to recognize that the extended course of human life endows older people with invaluable knowledge, experience and wisdom -- qualities that are worth harnessing, but which, instead, are all too often marginalized or allowed to lie dormant.  Today's younger generations will be a crucial part of this transformation, and it is incumbent on us to cultivate the healthy lifestyles, flexibility and foresight that will help them make the most of their expected longevity.  We can also derive a lesson or two from those societies which already revere and draw strength from their elders.

 On a policy level, the issue of ageing must be brought from the periphery to the centre of the global agenda, so that public policy more accurately reflects the economic and social needs of a rapidly ageing world.  Populations of developing countries are ageing more quickly than those of developed countries, and will have less time to adapt to the consequences.  Developed countries, meanwhile, have already seen the average age of their populations rise significantly, and so are grappling with the impact.  These variations in the pace of ageing could give different societies the chance to help each other, and to profit from each other's experience. 

 During the next year we shall begin to focus our attention on the Second World Assembly on Ageing, to be held in Spain in 2002.  We must use this occasion to rethink attitudes, reform policy, and reaffirm our commitment to build a true "society for all ages" in the twenty-first century.

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