Upholding the Rights of Older Persons during COVID 19 Pandemic #International Day of Older Persons 01st October

Uganda celebrated the International Day of Older Persons, with the main function hosted at State House Entebbe. President Yoweri Museveni was the chief guest.

The event was organized by the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development under the theme: “Upholding the rights of Older Persons during COVID 19 Pandemic:  A Call for Action”.

The United Nations General Assembly under resolution 45/106 designated 1st October the International Day of Older Persons.

The day was marked to recognize the contributions made by Older Persons and to create awareness among the public on the rights and needs of the older persons.

Furthermore, this was the day Government and other stakeholders take stock of what has been achieved, the gaps and possible solutions to address these gaps.

In Uganda, life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 2002 to 64 years today and this indicates that the number of Older Persons is increasing as people are now living longer, Sarah Kanyike, the state minister for the Elderly and the Disabled, said, citing UBoS figures of 2017.

“This increase in life expectancy has been attributed to improved health care through technological advancement in the health sector, increased positive health seeking behaviour and people adopting healthier lifestyles among others,” the minister said.

The National Housing and Population Census of 2014 showed that the population of Older Persons is 3.7%, which gives a population of 1,280,000 Older Persons.

Over the years, the government had also came up with measures to protect the rights of aged people and through the National Policy for Older Persons (2009), the government focused on key areas like economic empowerment, social security, food security and nutrition, health care and lifestyle for Older Persons, HIV and AIDS, education among others.

The Ministry rolled out the Senior Citizens Grant payments, under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE).

This national rollout to see Senior Citizens Grants extended to all the 135 districts in the country, reaching 358,420 Older Persons.

To benefit from the grants, one must be 80 years and above and registered with National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and in possession of a valid national ID, and not receiving another government pension. All beneficiaries from the older districts, who were already enrolled on the Programme, will continue to receive the grants, even if they are below 80 years.

Impacts of the Senior Citizens Grants

Improved welfare of the older people and their families through increased: Food security; frequency, quantity and quality of meals; access and uptake of health services, uptake of education services among children living with older people, improved ability to deal with economic shocks among older persons and their households.

Increased productivity of beneficiary households through: Investment of grants by older persons to hire labour to open up their hitherto idle land; purchase of livestock for rearing and procurement farm inputs which improve yields; the establishment of small businesses that make a return on investment;

Increased savings and investment: Beneficiaries have formed savings and loan groups. These savings are used to cover emergencies, to support productive investments, cultivation and meeting the education and scholastic needs of their children/grandchildren.

Boosted local economic activity: Increased purchasing power among SAGE beneficiary households has increased demand for local goods and services. This has resulted in the establishment of new businesses and markets to supply essential commodities in SAGE benefiting locations.

Increased social inclusion and empowerment: Beneficiaries, especially women, consistently report improved participation in community affairs, sense of self-esteem and empowerment. Older people report feeling less discriminated against in their communities and more valued by their families on account of their ability to make social contributions to community-based social support mechanisms which are based on reciprocity (funerals, weddings etc).

Impacts on poverty: Analysis based on the Uganda National Household Survey 2009/10, confirms that national roll-out of the SCG would: Deliver a basic level of income security to around 1.2 million older people, lift at least 1.2 million older people and household members out of extreme poverty, improve economic security for an additional 1.7 million people who are highly vulnerable to falling into poverty, and benefit 3 million of Uganda’s most vulnerable children.

The multiplier effects are beginning to be seen; the increased purchasing power in the community means that the local shopkeepers have market for their goods, and actually report stock out during payments; local people who have labour are employed to work for beneficiaries for example the local boda boda (motor cycle taxis) benefit from hire by older persons. In short, everyone in the community benefits.

In response to the popular demand, in FY 2018/19, Parliament resolved that starting FY 2019/20 the Programme be rolled out to all districts in the country, covering people who are 80 years and above, but gradually coming down and ultimately covering all older persons 65 years and above within a few years.

The national rollout of SAGE payments was officially launched by H.E Yoweri Museveni during the International Women’s Day celebrations in Mbale district, in March 2020. Payments were expected to have been effected by June 2020 but due to the outbreak of the corona virus, the Ministry was forced to review delivery mechanisms in compliance with the national guidelines on COVID 19.

Selection Criteria under the national roll-out

In line with the resolution of Parliament, and in line with the resources that were made available by the Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development, to benefit from the Programme, one has to be:

80 years and above,

Registered with NIRA for a national ID (The reason we emphasize registration with NIRA is because as a Ministry we do not have our own register to select beneficiaries from. Rather, we go to the NIRA register and pick people who are of 80 years and above. This means that if you are not on the NIRA register, there is no way the SAGE systems can pick you up.

Must not be receiving any other Government pension

All older persons in the older districts (those who joined the Programme through the pilot (65 years, or 60 for Karamoja, and above) and those who joined during the phased roll out in which the Programme selected the oldest 100 per sub county- remain on the Programme, even if they are not yet 80.

Covid-19 & the progress of payments in new districts

With the outbreak of COVID 19 and subsequent control measures put in place by Government, the Ministry initially had to suspend payments and has had to re-work its delivery mechanisms to ensure that payments and new registration procedures are compliant with the National Health SOPs and guidelines provided by the Government and the National Task Force so that these are undertaken without exposing older persons to the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The revised Programme SOPs were approved by the Covid-19 National Task Force in late May. Following the approval of the SOPs, the Ministry, in partnership with the District Task Forces on COVID 19 and the district local government leadership resumed operations and service to SAGE beneficiaries on 4th June 2020.

The national rollout of payments were completed at the end of August 2020.


On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This was preceded by initiatives such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing, which was adopted by the 1982 World Assembly on Ageing and endorsed later that year by the UN General Assembly.

In 1991, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons (resolution 46/91). In 2002, the Second World Assembly on Ageing adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, to respond to the opportunities and challenges of population ageing in the 21st century and to promote the development of a society for all ages.

The composition of the world population has changed dramatically in recent decades. Between 1950 and 2010, life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 to 68 years. Globally, there were 703 million persons aged 65 or over in 2019. 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 three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050. All regions will see an increase in the size of the older population between 2019 and 2050. The largest increase (312 million) is projected to occur in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, growing from 261 million in 2019 to 573 million in 2050. The fastest increase in the number of older persons is expected in Northern Africa and Western Asia, rising from 29 million in 2019 to 96 million in 2050 (an increase of 226 per cent). The second fastest increase is projected for sub-Saharan Africa, where the population aged 65 or over could grow from 32 million in 2019 to 101 million in 2050 (218 per cent). By contrast, the increase is expected to be relatively small in Australia and New Zealand (84 per cent) and in Europe and Northern America (48%), regions where the population is already significantly older than in other parts of the world.

Among development groups, less developed countries excluding the least developed countries will be home to more than two-thirds of the world’s older population (1.1 billion) in 2050. Yet the fastest increase is projected to take place in the least developed countries, where the number of persons aged 65 or over could rise from 37 million in 2019 to 120 million in 2050 (225%).

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. This year has also seen an emergence of COVID-19, that has caused an upheaval across the world. Considering the higher risks confronted by older persons during the outbreak of pandemics such as COVID-19, policy and programmatic interventions must be targeted towards raising awareness of their special needs. Recognizing older persons contributions to their own health and the multiple roles they play in the preparedness and response phases of current and future pandemics is also important.

This year has also been recognised as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. International Day of Older Persons 2020 will highlight the role of the health care workforce in contributing to the health of older persons, with special recognition of the nursing profession, and a primary focus on the role of women – who are relatively undervalued and in most cases inadequately compensated.

The 2020 observance will also promote the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) and help bring together UN experts, civil society, government and the health professions to discuss the five strategic objectives of the Global Strategy and Action plan on Ageing and Health while noting the progress and challenges in their realization. The global strategy is well integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs), while ageing issues cut across the 17 goals, especially Goal 3 which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being of all at all ages”. As stated by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO) “acting on the strategy, is a means for countries to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensure that every human being regardless of age will have an opportunity to fulfill their potential in dignity and equality”

The 2020 theme aims to:

  • Inform participants about the strategic objectives for the Decade of Healthy Ageing.
  • Raise awareness of the special health needs of older persons and of their contributions to their own health and to the functioning of the societies in which they live.
  • Increase awareness and appreciation of the role of the health care workforce in maintaining and improving the health of older persons, with special attention to the nursing profession
  • Present proposals for reducing the health disparities between older persons in the developed and developing countries, so as to “Leave no one behind”.
  • Increase understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on older persons and its impact on health care policy, planning, and attitudes.

Older Persons & Covid-19

Since the onset of the pandemic, the United Nations has given priority to the needs of older persons in its collective preparedness and response action at global, regional and country level.

As the world grapples with an unparalleled health crisis, older persons have become one of its more visible victims. The pandemic spreads among persons of all ages and conditions, yet available evidence indicates that older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of serious illness and death from the Covid-19 disease. Often, chronic health conditions are more prevalent in old age, increasing risks for older adults.

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