The Human Rights of the Elderly: An Emerging Challenge

20 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010 Last revised: 8 Nov 2011

See all articles by Frederic Megret

Frederic Megret

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 4, 2010


This draft paper on the human rights of the elderly attempts to give an overview of the rights challenges that this growing population creates globally. It suggests that attention to the human rights of the elderly is a relatively recent phenomenon borne from a perception that older persons raise specific challenges in terms of human rights, that are not appropriately addressed by the prevailing medical or welfare paradigms. Some of the salient features of the elderly as a category of humanity are highlighted including the difficulty of defining "old age", the paradox that the old may be both powerful and vulnerable, and the dilemmas raised by inter-generational justice. Beyond existing domestic and international instruments, a concrete look is given at how human rights issues play out in subtly different and sometimes novel way for the elderly. Apart from examining discreet rights or clusters of rights, the paper suggests a number of emerging cross-cutting problems. For example, "ageist" discrimination is increasingly becoming a concern in societies that idealize youth. The difficulties encountered by some older persons also take some focus away from the state, to the family, care institutions and even the global legal order.

Suggested Citation

Mégret, Frédéric, The Human Rights of the Elderly: An Emerging Challenge (April 4, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Frédéric Mégret (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec

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