Time to celebrate older adults across the globe! The UN International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP) 2021 (#UNIDOP2021) – celebrated Oct. 1 – seeks to increase awareness of the unique benefits that older people bring to society and create opportunities that ensure they get to grow old with dignity.
Presented by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the NGO Committees on Aging in New York, Geneva and Vienna, 2021 marks the 30th celebration of the annual event, and this year’s theme, Digital Equity for All Ages, is meant to highlight the disparities in technology resources among older populations compared to younger people, and increase awareness of cyber vulnerabilities specific to the aging population.
Because global demographics are shifting to “older” and will remain the norm for the majority of the 21st century, it’s vital we recognize the extent to which our culture undermines the value and contribution of our elders to stop the negative stereotypes and myths that abound. Ageism has a negative impact at the individual, societal, and economic levels.
Bridging the digital divide for older adults
Today’s older generation is the most adaptable population in global history, having lived through extraordinary times of change. Most of the older adults alive today have witnessed:
- Women’s suffrage
- The Great Depression and The New Deal
- World War II and the creation of the atomic bomb
- The polio vaccine
- The advent of the television, transistor radio and satellites
- The civil rights movement and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
- The moon landing
- The Vietnam War
- The invention of the video game, microchips and modems
- The AIDS crisis
- The Hubble Space Telescope
- The introduction of the personal computer and later the smartphone
- The birth of the internet
- 9/11 and the war against terror
- Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings
- Streaming of music, television and movies
And now the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which encompasses terms such as Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and 3D printing, is upon us. This revolution threatens to exclude the very individuals that got us this far. The Digital Divide – the gap between people who do and don’t have the access and ability to use modern communications technology – is growing ever wider for older adults. Seniors often have little or no access to tools and services like smartphones, computers, internet access and data plans. Further, cybercrimes and misinformation crimes against older adults are prevalent as policymakers battle to keep up with the pace of technology.
All these reasons and more highlight the importance of this year’s recognition—a chance for people around the world to pay tribute and honor the older people around us.
Join a virtual UNIDOP event
Top Sixty Over Sixty, an organization dedicated to providing businesses and individuals with the resources necessary to thrive in today’s rapidly changing and aging world, will host an open forum on Zoom to identify and promote ideas and activities that everyone can engage in to combat ageism.
Visit the official United Nations International Day of Older Persons 2021 registration page for more information on this year’s event from New York, and view the full list of live and virtual events for the UNIDOP 2021 week here.
Ways to observe the 30th annual International Day of Older Persons
Each of us can make an impact in our way to help honor the older adults around us and combat the negative stereotypes that are so pervasive in today’s society,
Volunteer your time – Volunteer opportunities that benefit older adults are copious, and even just a little bit of volunteering can make a big difference in an older person’s life. Search out organizations in your area and simply ask what you can do to help. They always need a hand and would be happy for your help.
Search volunteer registries in your community or the UN volunteer registry to find volunteer opportunities in your country.
Spend time with older adults – There is no better way to honor somebody than to give them your time in this busy day and age. Try one of these fun ideas:
- Play a board game – Like all age groups, older adults love board games. This provides an easy way to engage with them and share some laughs in the meantime.
- Play cards – If you’ve ever played cards with an older adult, you’ve likely quickly learned never to underestimate their shuffling skills! Some great options include cribbage, hearts, rummy and others.
- Chat with them – Older people have a wealth of knowledge. They’ve lived long and interesting lives and have gathered countless pieces of wisdom on the way. They would love to share this with you. Try discussing their family heritage, history or traditions, or simply ask for advice.
- Collaborate on a craft – Everyone loves to express their creativity, and crafts are incredibly beneficial to older adults. They help with focus, a sense of purpose, and stimulate the brain and help to improve cognitive function. Help an older adult express theirs by completing a craft project together. Examples include decorative paper lanterns, homemade heating pillows or handmade greeting cards. Find other fun crafts for seniors here.
- Ask them to teach you something new – This is your chance to learn a skill from them to help keep the practice alive for generations to come. Examples include: knitting, woodworking, writing, sewing (maybe start by asking them to show you the basic steps for repairing a button) or cooking.
Become an advocate for older adults
While Oct. 1 is only one day, the most lasting and impactful thing we can do is become an advocate for older adults and join the battle against ageism. As the UN writes, it’s important to recognize “the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society.”