Statement delivered by H.E. Mohan Pieris, Ambassador and the Permanent Representative
of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at the 12th Session of the Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing
11 April 2022
Whilst Sri Lanka aligns itself with the statement made by the Group of 77 and China it makes the following observations its our national capacity:
We live in a remarkable world in which people live longer than ever before. We are healthier and many of us look forward to our older age.
With timely investments in supporting the contributions, experience and expertise of the growing number of older men and women, population ageing can become a vehicle for growth and prosperity.
There is however a sustainability gap between the longer lives and the evolution of policies that capture these great changes, policies that would protect and empower older men and women.
The comprehensive post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise the central importance of older men and women to the ideals of sustainable development. Particularly relevant is goal 3".
The deliberations on the two focus areas of this session "Contribution of older persons to sustainable development" and "Economic security" will be of great importance as we look to overcome the multiple crises that we face today, primarily the COVID-19 pandemic as we look to 'Build back better'.
In the very pursuit of creating a better tomorrow, we must be cognizant to include those who forged our today, those who helped create the very groundwork within which we manage- our aging population.
In Sri Lanka the care of the elderly has been based on the 'Seven Conditions of Welfare' for a society, as preached by the lord Buddha. One of the seven factors is the need to support, respect, venerate and honour elders and pay regard to their worthy speech and action.
In Sri Lanka, at present, 12.3% of the population is older than 60 years, which is one of the highest in South Asia. In another 15 years' time, this figure is expected to rise up to 25 %. Sri Lanka's free and universal healthcare system is one of the primary reasons behind this increase in the older population with average life expectancy currently standing at 72 years.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a disproportionately heavy impact on the older persons. We believe that the national policies addressing the pandemic need to be formulated to ensure the dignity and human rights of the older people, giving due consideration to powerlessness and the loss of control the older people are facing as realities of life.
We must go beyond preserving rights, to being one step ahead of the issues our elderly will face, both now and in the future. It is vital that we are fore thinking and create policy and legal frameworks that will more effectively address the economic and social issues our aging population face. Sensitizing the youth to the issues the elderly will face is critical to ensure that they are not forgotten in key policy decisions.
May I wind up by recalling what the poet Kalil Gibron said "the things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our soul remains hovering over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves". And as someone else said, to most of us who are advanced in our years "relish love in our old age! aged love is like aged wine, it becomes more satisfying, more refreshing, more valuable, more appreciated, and more intoxicating.'' Think about it, there's only one time in our life where we will have a chance to be old, and hopefully wise. Getting old madam chair, is a fascinating thing, the older you get the older you want to get. Let us not neglect the celebration of old age which gets less prominence in our culture than either the bad news or the ever youthful evasions of it. What we celebrate is the accumulated wisdom of just having lived so long in contrast to the negativity of ageism. It would be a pity to have had the good fortune to have lived to be so old and yet to remain trapped in who we were, without being able to step out to the new life that awaits us, and that is the task that we all have to ensure.