On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly (by resolution 45/106) designated 1 October the International Day of Older Persons. 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 (by resolution 46/91) adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons.
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 theme of the 2012 commemoration is “Longevity: Shaping the Future”. Ageing and health was also the theme of this year's World Health Day on 7 April. These themes focus on how healthy behaviours throughout life can help older men and women lead full and productive lives and be a resource for their families and communities.
Secretary-General's Message for 2012
Rapid population ageing and a steady increase in human longevity worldwide represent one of the greatest social, economic and political transformations of our time. These demographic changes will affect every community, family and person. They demand that we rethink how individuals live, work, plan and learn throughout their lifetimes, and that we re-invent how societies manage themselves.
As we embark on shaping the post-2015 United Nations development agenda, we must envision a new paradigm that aligns demographic ageing with economic and social growth and protects the human rights of older persons. We are all — individually and collectively — responsible for the inclusion of older persons in society, whether through developing accessible transportation and communities, ensuring the availability of age-appropriate health care and social services, or providing an adequate social protection floor.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. As the proportion of older persons in society grows, the bold vision it put forward — of building a society for all ages — is more relevant than ever.
Longevity is a public health achievement, not a social or economic liability. On this International Day of Older Persons, let us pledge to ensure the well-being of older persons and to enlist their meaningful participation in society so we can all benefit from their knowledge and ability.