Older adults at risk of losing liberties as they age, UN report says

Research presented to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council found older adults worldwide are actively deprived of their liberty.

The report, presented Sept. 19 in Geneva by Claudia Mahler, a United Nations independent expert and senior researcher for the German Institute for Human Rights, highlights issues older adults face, from forced institutionalization to the abuse of chemical restraints to keep them docile.

"Older persons are deprived of liberty when confined to a specific space or placed in a public or private institution against their wishes, without their free and informed consent or without permission to leave at will," Ms. Mahler said in the report.

Ageism and age discrimination were underlying most discriminatory laws, policies and practices depriving liberty from older adults worldwide, she wrote.

"Deprivation of liberty of older persons in care settings is often justified as being in their 'best interests,' to ensure their security and protect them from self-harm or from causing harm to others. Such reasoning is often advanced as a persuasive basis for limiting the rights of older persons with disabilities on the basis of their impairment or in combination with other factors," the report stated. "The lack of public policies catering to older persons and the abandonment of older persons by their families contribute to deprivation of liberty within the context of care."

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