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UN Principles

A group of older people clapping and cheering

The United Nations Principles for Older Persons were adopted by the UN General Assembly (Resolution 46/91) on 16 December 1991. Governments were encouraged to incorporate them into their national programmes whenever possible. There are 18 principles, which can be grouped under five themes: independence, participation, care, self-fulfilment and dignity.

The Principles acknowledge:

  1. the tremendous diversity in the situations of older persons, not only between countries but within countries and between individuals;
  2. that individuals are reaching an advanced age in greater numbers and in better health than ever before;
  3. that scientific research disproves many stereotypes about inevitable and irreversible decline with age;
  4. that in a world characterized by an increasing number and proportion of older persons, opportunities must be provided for willing and capable older persons to participate in and contribute to the ongoing activities of society;
  5. that the strain on family life in both developed and developing countries requires support for those providing care to frail older persons.

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales is legally obliged to have regard to these Principles and is pleased to do so. They are Principles that should be considered by all organisations and regarded as a framework for their treatment of older people.


  1. Older persons should have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.
  2. Older persons should have the opportunity to work or to have access to other income-generating opportunities.
  3. Older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.
  4. Older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programmes.
  5. Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.
  6. Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.


  1. Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations.
  2. Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and to serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.
  3. Older persons should be able to form movements or associations of older persons.


  1. Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.
  2. Older persons should have access to health care to help them to maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well-being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.
  3. Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.
  4. Older persons should be able to utilize appropriate levels of institutional care providing protection, rehabilitation and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment.
  5. Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and the quality of their lives.


  1. Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the full development of their potential.
  2. Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational resources of society.


  1. Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free of exploitation and physical or mental abuse.
  2. Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status, and be valued independently of their economic contribution.

Further information on United Nations Principles on Older Persons can be found here:

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