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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Focus Area: Older Persons

The Older Persons portfolio at the Commission is one of the seven focus areas identified as requiring dedicated promotion, protection and monitoring for the realisation of the human rights of older persons in South Africa.

Older Persons are people who are above the age of 60 and constitute approximately 8% of the population.  Older persons continue to lack access to adequate health, social support and access to other basic services. They are at risk of economic isolation with almost no prospect of securing employment.  
Strategic Focus Area: Older Persons
With regard to Older Persons, According to the census conducted in 2011, South Africa’s older population constitutes roughly 8% of the entire population of the country.  Notably, sex variations show that old age in South Africa is highly feminized. This further highlights the manner in which women with disabilities and elder women bear the brunt of systematic discrimination.

The Human Rights Commission’s work on Equality and Older Persons
The complaints received by the Commission highlight systemic challenges relating to the achievement of equality, particularly in relation to older persons.  

The work of the Older Persons portfolio is informed by the constitutional mandate of the Commission, relevant national legislation, and applicable international and regional instruments.

Section 11 Committees
Section 11 Committees are advisory boards comprised of experts from different disciplines and institutions, who advise the Commission on matters and interventions relating to older persons.  

In June 2016, the SAHRC convened a meeting of the Section 11 Committee on Older Persons, to discuss the progress made on addressing systemic issues relating to the treatment of Older Persons as highlighted in its National Hearing on Older Persons Investigative Report, 2015. The meeting intended to ensure that the relevant departments address the Commission’s recommendations, and to acquire information on any new developments in the sector.  The meeting also discussed increased reports of victims of violence in residential care centres, the lack of registration of Caregivers by the DSD, and the new values of SASSA grants.

The Commission receives complaints from elder persons whose rights to equality, dignity or socioeconomic rights may have been violated.  

In March 2013, the South African Human Rights Commission received a complaint from the South African Older Persons Forum (SAOPF) relating to the progress and implementation of a register detailing persons convicted of abusing older persons (or any crime or offence) by the Department of Social Development.

After careful analysis of both written and oral submissions made by various departments and stakeholders during the hearing, the Commission made a number of findings and recommendations arising from its hearing. Some of these relate to legislative reform, capacity enhancement, and improved service delivery.  Older Persons report

Site Inspections
The Commission undertakes site visits, to Care Centres as part of its monitoring, awareness and protection activities. Other site visits in this portfolio include visits to several residential care centres for older persons in the Western Cape province of the country.

The Commission also publishes reports of its findings and recommendations arising from hearings such the Hearings On The Challenges Relating To The Treatment And Abuse Of Older Persons. These hearings are convened at a national level and focus on systemic issues that have a direct impact on Older Persons. The report found that older persons continue to lack access to adequate health and basic education, and continue to suffer from gender discrimination and abuse. In particular the hearing established the need for government to revisit social grant amounts and allocation, as very often older persons are unable to organize and secure the audience to be heard.

International & Regional Conferences
The Commission attends regional and international conferences and other domestic platforms and engages with a range of stakeholders to ensure that it keeps up with national and international developments in the disability and older persons sector.  The Commission’s attendance is also intended to foster information sharing and collaboration with other institutions and the development of regional legislation and guidelines on older persons.

Advocacy and public education
Focussed advocacy initiatives and public education on issues pertaining to older persons are key to catalysing increased awareness and more responsiveness for the protection of their rights.  Advocacy interventions by the Commission include awareness raising through education, training, public information campaigns and outreach clinics, seminars, conferences, dialogues, roundtables, web publishing, and use of social media platforms.

The Commission’s participation in the Mandela Day celebrations at the Hlanganani Old Age Home in July 2016 was well received, as this icon of South Africa was a firm advocate of the rights of older persons.

Provincial Visits
The Commission conducts Provincial Visits in order to monitor compliance with the Older Persons Act, to raise awareness on the rights of older persons, to create partnerships with relevant stakeholders, and promote the work of the Commission in the area of older persons.

A recent provincial visit to the Western Cape included site visits at the GH Stark home for older persons in Hanover Park.  

Domestic Legislation, International And Regional Frameworks Older Persons
In pursuit of its mandate with respect to the rights of older persons, the Commission monitors compliance with:
•    Section 9 of the South African Constitution.
•    The Older Persons Act 13 Of 2006.
•    The Promotion Of Equality And Prevention Of Unfair Discrimination Act 40 of 2000 (PEPUDA).


  • Provincial visits to Mpumalanga in March 2016 and the Western Cape in July 2016


The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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