Public health and the human rights of the elderly


  • Martha B. Peláez
  • Marcela Ferrer Lues Universidad de Chile.


By underlying the fact that the need to protect the human rights of the elderly has not yet been recognized by the international community, this paper analyses the discrimination older people may suffer because of age. Health, work and intergenerational transferences are addressed as the three areas where such a discrimination may be perceived; we distinguish vulnerability by reason of age from vulnerability due to other factors, such as gender, race, ethnic minority or socioeconomic status. Discrimination by reason of age is expressed through a number of actions or omissions aimed at treating individuals or collectivities under lower standards only because of age. It is evident that discrimination due to age does not act in isolation but in conjunction with other factors, thus increasing the risk of vulnerability and discrimination. It is the case, for instance, of health, gender and economic inequalities associated to discrimination by reason of age.

As a conclusion we suggest a series of guidelines for public policies oriented to the reduction of above mentioned inequities and the construction of a fair society. A society that promotes development while taking into consideration the needs and potentialities of every human being.


Ageing, human rights, discrimination by age, equity, vulnerability.

Author Biographies

Martha B. Peláez

Ph. D. en Filosofía, Universidad de Tulane, New Orleans, USA. Asesora Regional en Envejecimiento y Salud, Programa de la Salud de la Familia y la Población, División de Promoción y Protección a la Salud, OPS/OMS, Washington, D.C.

Marcela Ferrer Lues, Universidad de Chile.

Investigadora del Centro de Análisis de Políticas Públicas de la Universidad de Chile.