Cynthia Stuen, PhD is the United Nations Main Representative for the International Federation on Ageing and was elected Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing/NY in 2019. She served as Vice-chair of the NGO CoA/NY from 2016-2019 and as its Program Subcommittee Chair during that tenure. She served as Co-chair of the 2015 UN International Day of Older Persons. She is Vice President of the Board of Directors of Visions-Services to Blind and Visually Impaired and was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the International Federation on Ageing. During her 24 year tenure at Lighthouse International, Dr. Stuen served in various capacities with her most recent position as Senior Vice President, Chief Professional Affairs Officer that involved advocating for policy at the national, state and local level while also maintaining involvement in international efforts to preserve sight and prevent excess disability resulting from vision impairment. . Dr. Stuen is a past Chair of the American Society on Aging (ASA), She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and also the NY Academy of Medicine. Her numerous publications, presentations and research endeavors cover topics of age-related sensory loss, evidence-based electronic records, and access to environments for older adults.
Why a convention on Human Rights of older persons? COVID-19 impact, what YOU CAN DO!
Dr. Ken Madden holds the Allan M. McGavin Chair in Geriatric Medicine at the University of British Columbia and is President of the Canadian Geriatric Society. His lab has examined exercise interventions in older adults with diabetes, postprandial hypotension and the impact of sedentary behaviours on cardiometabolic risk factors.
Dr. Kiran Rabheru is Full Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa Hospital. He serves as Medical Director of the Geriatric Psychiatry, Electroconvulsive Therapy, and the Behavioral Support Programs at TOH. He is designated as a Founder of the subspecialty of Geriatric Psychiatry by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He is the recipient of the Outstanding Achievements in Geriatric Psychiatry in Canada award by the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry (CAGP) and has served as its President. He serves as Chair of the Board of the International Longevity Centre Canada. Dr. Rabheru was elected as Chair of the Steering Committee for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, a network of over 380 members from over 80 countries.
Margaret Gillis is the founding President of the International Longevity Centre Canada, a human rights based organization which is part of a global alliance of 16 Centres dedicated to the needs of older people. An award winning executive and innovative leader, Margaret played a key role in establishing the Age-friendly Community program in Canada and internationally. Other career highlights include a joint government-oNGO project to protect seniors in disasters which was recognized with an award presented by Her Majesty the Queen.
Margaret has strong credentials in regard to human rights, working with and speaking at the UN General Assembly on behalf of older people of Canada and as Canadian Delegate to the Organization of American States, Institute for Children. She is currently Chair of the National Advocacy Working Group at the Global Alliance on the Rights of Older Persons and has been active for a United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons in Canada and internationally.
Cynthia Stuen, International Federation on Ageing, United States
Ken Madden, University of British Columbia, Canada
Kiran Rabheru, ILC Canada, Canada
Margaret Gillis, ILC Canada, Canada
The novel coronavirus and its devastating effects on older adults has been cited as examples of both ageism and a lack of societal supports for healthy aging. In reality, however, the pandemic merely amplified structural inequalities and issues that have been present for many years.
This workshop will explore several long addressed inequalities and issues that have been highlighted over the last year by the current global health crisis. Although this crisis will pose many challenges, it also creates an opportunity to address a longstanding neglect of our older population. Issues such as social isolation, poor conditions in residential care, and a lack of intergenerational solidarity have long been present and have recently been brought into stark relief.
- Social isolation: The prevalence of social isolation and loneliness continue to grow, with about one-third of older adults experiencing this condition and about 1 in 20 stating they “always feel alone.” Gerontologists and social workers have long expressed concern about loneliness and social isolation—in fact, in 2015, “Eradicate Social Isolation” was included as one of the twelve Grand Challenges for Social Work. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (in 2017) called this issue a “loneliness epidemic” and we are only now coming to grips with how social distancing interventions have exacerbated this issue.
- Poor conditions in Residential Care: Conditions in residential care have long been documented, and strongly intersect with both ageism and structurally exploitative working conditions. Creating a fairer working environment for caregivers is necessary to improve both the quality of care and medical outcomes for older adults.
- Lack of intergenerational solidarity: A lack of intergenerational solidarity has been growing for many years, and became obvious during the COVID-19 crisis. The death of older adults was often undervalued in news reporting, resulting in a disturbing rhetoric of unconcern, seeing older adults as vectors of infection and attaching blame to a vulnerable population.
Our workshop will discuss these chronic inequities, how they have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and how adopting a human rights internationally recognized legally binding document could pave the way to improving these chronic, worsening issues. How Canada the United States and other countries are engaging in campaigns to educate and seek support for such a document will be shared.