The celebration of International Women’s Day is an important occasion to remember that older persons are not a homogeneous group. The recognition of older persons’ diversity – for example, gender differences – is an important step towards the development of better and more adequate policies.
Violence is one of the main problems affecting older women all over the world. Forms of violence vary from accusations of witchcraft to domestic violence perpetrated by the elder’s own family members. Unfortunately, no consistent evaluation of such crimes exists.
HelpAge international has an interesting video (see below) to help us to understand some of the issues that older women face. The Older Women Count campaign highlights how, despite increasing evidence of discrimination against women in older age and the challenges these women face, the problems affecting older women are largely ignored.
The Gender and Ageing Charter, adopted at the second International Longevity Forum in Rio de Janeiro, October 2014, is another important initiative to have in mind. According to the charter, the social construction of gender informs all aspects of ageing in every socioeconomic, cultural and institutional context. Therefore, special attention in all settings must be given to the effects of cumulative gender-based disadvantages.
In another video, published by the PROJECT M, the producers ask a very simple question: “Are young women today cursed to poverty in retirement?”. The answer is very clear: “in most countries, older women are at greater risk of poverty than older men”, a phenomena they describe as the younger wife’s curse.
Those are just a few examples to remind us that ageing and old age is a highly gendered experience, and gender, therefore, cannot be ignored whenever ageing is under debate.
Happy Women’s Day