Invited Perspective| Volume 29, ISSUE 10, P1009-1014, October 2021

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Understanding Barriers to the Realization of Human Rights Among Older Women With Mental Health Conditions


      • What are the economic, social and cultural disadvantages faced by older women living with mental health conditions and where are the opportunities to better protect their human rights?
      • The paper finds that good health, economic security, adequate housing and personal safety are essential requirements of ageing well, but older women in both developed and developing countries face difficulties in accessing these on a basis of equality with men. Mental health conditions deepen the disadvantage at the intersections of age and gender and create greater barriers to social and economic participation among older women.
      • More needs to be done in policy, services, and international human rights frameworks to support older women with and without mental health conditions to realise their human rights.


      There is increasing emphasis in research and at the level of international human rights bodies such as the United Nations on the gendered contours of age-based disadvantage and discrimination, and the cumulative effects of gender inequalities over the life-course on outcomes in later life. However, to date, the role of mental health in shaping the age/gender nexus in the realization of human rights has received little attention. In response, this paper aims to 1) elucidate the economic, social and cultural disadvantages and discrimination faced by older women living with mental health conditions; and 2) identify opportunities to protect their human rights. It concludes that older women face inequalities and disadvantages at the intersections of age, gender, and mental health and wellbeing that compromise their capacity to age well, illuminating the urgent need for a UN Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons that considers the role of mental health in shaping the realization of human rights among older people.

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