Message by President Nelson Mandela on announcing the International Year of Older Persons

17 December 1998

My greetings to the older people of our country. Today we should acknowledge their role in making our country what it is today. Their sweat and blood laid the foundations of our democracy and built the infrastructure for future generations.

A society that does not value its older people denies its roots and endangers its future. Let us strive to enhance their capacity to support themselves for as long as possible and when they cannot do so anymore, to care for them.

The UN has declared 1999 the International Year of Older Persons with the theme "Towards a society of all ages". Such a society recognises the rights and responsibilities of all age groups. It is one in which older persons can live healthy, productive and economically secure lives.

For the first time our country will participate fully in an international event for older persons. As we celebrate with the world, we must redouble our efforts to address the problems older people face in our society. We must establish sustainable programmes to assist them beyond the celebrations of 1999. We must create an environment in which individuals of all ages can participate actively and receive care and support when they need it.

Older persons are an integral part of our communities. They are often the carers of children, disabled persons and the ill. They have wisdom, knowledge, talents and skills that we must use in our country's development and in the realisation of our dream of an African Renaissance.

Let us join hands across generations to honour their legacy.

Together, let us create a "Society of All Ages" of which we can all be proud.

Source: South African Government Information Website