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Building forward better in light of COVID-19: Upholding the rights and dignity of older persons through health, social care and enabling environments in Europe and Central Asia

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the rights and health of older persons in our societies. While the infection spreads among persons of all ages, older persons and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. As of September 2020, 88 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in the WHO European Region were in persons aged 65+. Symptomatic individuals in their seventies are twenty times more likely to require hospitalization than young adults, and case fatality rates suggest a notable increase in risk after age 60, with progressively worse outcomes at older ages. Among these, older people from lower socio-economic status have experienced a worsening of their living conditions, being confined to overcrowded or deprived houses and confronted with housing and food insecurity. Less visible but no less worrisome are the broader effects: health care denied for conditions unrelated to COVID-19; neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities; an increase in poverty and unemployment; the dramatic impact on well-being and mental health; social isolation and exclusion, stigma and discrimination.