1st October marks the International Day of Older Persons, the theme of which this year is Digital Equity for All Ages, on which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres comments:
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 the digital skills of the elderly as an important defence and means to improve their 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.
To this end, Survivors Fund (SURF), is utilising technology to provide support to older survivors facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the contniuing support of Clifford Chance through our Counselling Extension Response Project (CERP II), we are extending the support of our earlier COVID-19 Emergency Response Project (CERP) to vulnerable survivors, particularly the elderly, to phone-based counselling, and immediate nutritional support in the form of direct digital cash transfers through MTN MoMo (Mobile Money) to buy food, reinforced by distribution of livestock to older survivors particularly.
We are specifically targeting vulnerable older survivors whose health and psychological wellbeing has been affected because they cannot find food for themselves and their dependants making them vulnerable and susceptible to a state of depression and weakened immunity that if not checked now may result in fatal outcomes. Ensuring that older survivors have access to technology to receive this vital support is critical.
As such, we recognise and acknowledge the importance of ensuring older persons can receive support through access to technology, in particular to address the ongoing challenges resulting from COVID-19, on this important ocassion of the International Day of Older Persons.