The Senex Association for Ageing Studies Research on the Impact of Climate Change

The Raoul Wallenberg Institute’s Turkey Capacity Development Programme continued its work on the rights of older persons through its partnership with Senex/Akdeniz University, Antalya. The partnership between the Turkey Programme and the University’s Department of Gerontology resulted in the formation of The Senex Association for Ageing Studies (Senex) in 2017.

Senex conducts its work on the rights of older persons in Turkey through two mechanisms:

(1) Organising an annual conference on the rights of older persons titled Senex Congress of
Ageing Studies for Graduate Students, since 2017.

(2) Publishing books and journals under the name Association for Ageing Studies Publications. Since 2017, the Association also regularly publishes The Senex Journal of Aging Studies. Additionally, Senex conducts policy-relevant research to promote older persons rights. This includes beneficiary policies and practices at municipal level, including preparing research resultbased training programmes for municipal experts.

Senex IV Congress of Aging Studies for Graduate Students

The annual Senex Congress serves as a platform for graduate students, researchers, academics, and policy makers. They share breakthrough research on topics related to the rights of older persons and discuss related themes.

During 2020, the Congress moved online and was held at the end of October. As many as 145 researchers and research students joined. Senex IV centred on the theme of ‘Inclusive Societies’ and emphasised a greater understanding of the regulations, practices, and policies that can be implemented for future generations of older people as right-holders in Turkey.

Publication: The Impact of Climate Change on the Rights of Older Persons in Turkey.

The RWI Turkey Programme supported an innovative publication by Senex entitled The Impact of Climate Change on the Rights of Older Persons in Turkey.

The report is published publicly in both Turkish and English. It responds to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights’ July 2020 call for further information from member states on the effects of climate change on the rights of older persons.

A demographic assessment of Turkish society from 1935-2019 demonstrates that the declining birth rate and parallel increase in life expectancy situates Turkey as an ageing society.

Whilst an ageing society is not necessarily a concern, becoming older prior to becoming wealthy introduces significant challenges in the fulfilment of society-wide human rights, including the rights of older persons.

Older people carry a heavy weight

Acknowledging Turkey’s ageing population, the report highlights the nexus between the rights of older persons and climate change.

Climate change is a global issue, and carries a particularly heavy burden. burden for older persons (in particular older women and persons with disabilities). Internal migration since the 1980s has resulted in a concentration of older populations in rural Turkey. These older persons are often employed in rural economic activities or engage in small-scale agricultural production for household consumption.

In this context, the effects of climate change on quality of land, sustainable food production and agricultural activities has a significant impact on older persons in rural areas.

As a result, Turkey has seen a relocation of the rural elderly populations, as once-income generating agricultural activities are no longer viable or terminated — thus creating migration to urban areas. Migrating older individuals become increasingly dependent on the state or family members.

Given the nature of their previous agricultural activities, older persons are often excluded from social safety nets. They and enter situations of discrimination, old age poverty, and associated  physical and mental health issues.

Case studies over 30 years

In the report, RWI has utilised case studies from the past three decades. We investigate how ‘development’, in particular extractive and mining activities, have resulted in the destruction of agricultural land, forestland, and watercourses across Turkey.

The loss in ecological diversity further exacerbates the effects of climate change and the inability of older persons to engage in decision-making processes prior to expropriation. Such trends further push older persons from their livelihoods, into poverty and towards urban centres. Efforts to seek access to justice often result in ageism and criticisms of ‘challenging the state’.

This finding supports earlier research from April- May 2020 by the RWI titled ‘Perception of Ageing and Rights of Older Persons in Turkey during the Corona Crisis’ which noted an 8% increase in ageism during the pandemic. Lack of policies The national government and civil society’s approach to the impact of climate change on the rights of older persons in Turkey is limited.

There is an absence of policy, practice or strategy from both state and civil society. There is no national data or specific tool to monitor or measure the adverse effects of climate change on the rights of older persons. Our report further highlights that social services have been devolved to local governments, who lack awareness on providing rights-based services and often result in the fragmented delivery of services. As a result, older people find it harder to access social services, especially in rural areas.

The report recommends that efforts are put in place to promote digital literacy amongst older persons for this sector of society to better access their rights — both generally and in the context of climate change. In the context of climate change, it is important to ensure the participation of all generations, including older persons, in decision-making processes: to be able to identify problems and achieve climate justice.

The Senex Report will be discussed at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which will be held in June and July 2021. 

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