Developing a new framework for human rights in older age: Exploration, interpretation and application
Georgantzi, Athina Eleni
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While there is growing attention on the rights of older persons and the feasibility of a new treaty, the conceptual basis for a new United Nations (UN) convention has not yet been clearly articulated. This thesis addresses this gap by providing the first empirical study on this issue. The thesis set out to discuss the value of a new UN convention by i) providing a theoretical understanding of older people’s rights ii) discussing how the human rights of older persons should be interpreted in international standards and iii) suggesting how a new Convention should be framed to achieve better normative impact. The study carried out a comparative socio-legal analysis in Ireland, France and Greece and applied an interpretation of the constructivist grounded theory for the analysis of the data. Interviews were conducted with 24 participants involved in various organisations, which are active in advocacy or implementation of older people’s rights in the three selected countries. Discounting, which is defined as a form of systemic undermining of dignity of older persons, exists at societal level and in normative standards, as revealed in the current limited conception of human rights in older age. The thesis argues that a new convention could help detect human rights breaches against older persons (Recognizing); expand policy attention and State obligations to a wider range of issues (Enabling); and also help individuals and advocacy organisations raise their voice, claim their rights and seek remedy (Empowering). Based on the findings, older people do not carry certain inevitable qualities that make discrimination inevitable, rather the denial of human rights is, more often than not, socially constructed. Therefore, discussions about a new treaty need to move away from restrictive and confining medical and welfare approaches that characterize current human rights discourse and practice. Instead, the thesis suggests that a new frame based on the promotion of ‘human rights in older age’ would be much more enabling and inclusive.