By: Nanette Fairley
September 29, 2021


On 14th December, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1st as the International Day of Older Persons and it was first observed on that day in 1991.

Older persons, generally described as those 65 years of age or older, numbered approximately 703 million in 2019. Between 1950 and 2010, life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years.  The region of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia was home to the largest number of older persons (261 million), followed by Europe and Northern America (over 200 million).  Over the next thirty years, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double to reach more than 1.5 billion in 2050.

The purpose of the International Day of Older Persons is to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities of ageing populations around the world.  The event gathers practitioners and international experts to share the latest research on subjects that address the status of older persons in regards to health, financial security, poverty and other pertinent topics.

Each year a theme is determined that shines a light on some aspect of aging.  In the past themes have included:

  • Older persons in an Intergenerational Society
  • Addressing the Challenges and Opportunities of Ageing
  •  The Growing Opportunities & Challenges of Global Ageing
  • Longevity: Shaping the Future
  • The Future we Want: what Older Persons are Saying
  • Take A Stand Against Ageism
  •  Stepping into the Future: Tapping the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons
  • The Journey to Age Equality

The 2021 theme, Digital Equity for All Ages, is an interesting one and very relevant in our rapidly changing technological landscape where older persons need access and participation in the digital space.

Recent reports by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicate that ‘women and older persons experience digital inequity to a greater extent than other groups in society; they either lack access to technologies, or are often not benefitting fully from the opportunities provided by technological progress.’  Older persons can be more vulnerable to cybercrime and misinformation and new risks around privacy and security need to be addressed.

The UN Secretary General’s message for the International Day of Older Persons (2021) is as follows…….

Staying connected with loved ones. Attending a religious service. Taking a stance. All of these actions and many more are increasingly carried out online, especially as individuals and communities grapple with restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we face the challenge of navigating our world’s growing reliance on technology, perhaps no population could benefit more from support than older persons.

“Digital Equality for all Ages,” the theme of this year’s International Day of Older Persons, offers an important chance to expand opportunities across generations for the benefit of society as a whole.

Older persons have often been left more isolated during the pandemic. They are also at greater risk of suffering from the rising threat of cybercrime. While taking all possible measures to hold to account those unscrupulous criminals preying on older persons, we must also work to strengthen their digital skills as an important defence and means to improve well-being.

Older persons are far more than a vulnerable group; they are a source of knowledge, experience and rich contributions to our collective progress. When older persons can access, learn and use new technology, they will be better equipped to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy health, peace and prosperity.

On this year’s International Day of Older Persons, I call for more inclusive policies, strategies and actions to achieve digital equality for people of all ages.

António Guterres

If this year’s theme is one you are interested in, you can sign up for the UN’s webinar through the link below….

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