Older people and the law

Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights states that everyone has the right to equality, a safe environment and access to adequate housing. The constitution provides for no unfair discrimination either directly or indirectly on the basis of age.

In the 1997 White Paper for Social Welfare, elders are identified as a ‘vulnerable group’ with special needs. It recognises the partnership between the State and the Private Sector to achieve an effective Welfare System.

The White paper is the policy which underpins ‘community based interventions’ to meet the needs of older people, who are to ‘remain in the community for as long as possible’.

Download Act 13 of 2006.


International Plan of Action on Ageing : Madrid 2002

154 countries signed the plan, including South Africa. Three key priorities were identified:

  1. Older person development
  2. Promotion of Healthy and Active Ageing
  3. Creating an enabling and supporting environment for older persons

Download Madrid International Plan of Action.

The South African delegation was tasked with developing its own plan of action, taking into account the needs pertinent to developing countries. At that time, the issue of elder abuse was highlighted as a major problem and South Africa included a fourth priority direction which dealt specifically with the protection of older people.

Download SA Plan of Action.

Subsequently, the South African Older Persons Forum was established, with the aim of giving older persons a collective voice at the highest level.