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Finland: do more to respect diverse needs of older persons – UN expert

Jordan Daily – Finland has a commendable social protection and social and health care system for older persons, but needs to recognize they are not a homogenous group and do more to serve their individual needs, a UN expert said today.

At the end of a 10-day-long visit to Finland, Claudia Mahler, the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, applauded the country’s commitment and political will to include older persons.

“This is reflected in legislation and policies in areas such as participation, social protection, social and health care services and housing strategies to ensure that older persons can live at home as long as possible and get the necessary support,” Mahler said in a statement at the end of her visit.

However, she said, the State’s commitment to the rights of older persons needs to be reflected in everyday practice, and the government needs to do more to uphold the human rights of older persons. In particular, Finland needs to recognise that people may not simply be older, they may also be gender diverse, indigenous, or come from various ethnic backgrounds.

Older  lesbian,  gay,  bisexual,  transgender  and  intersex  persons  are  one  of  the  most vulnerable groups, receive insufficient services and end up with poor health outcome, she said. They may also face more than one form of discrimination.

“I also noted a disconnect between the commitment and everyday implementation in practice at the district and municipal levels, with the availability and quality of services varying considerably depending on where a person lives,” Mahler said. “Access to culturally sensitive services is also a concern for Sámi community members and older Roma persons.”

She called for changes to legislation and practice to make sure older persons can fully enjoy their human rights.

“I hope that my visit and my report will assist the country to continue advancing towards the establishment of a truly inclusive and age friendly society,” she said.

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