Striving for social protection rights for older people

In multiple countries worldwide, most older people have little income and limited access to health care and social security. The situation of older people varies per context, but in many situations older people are overlooked and unable to participate in society. In addition to that, older people face discrimination and stigmatisation based on cultural norms and social prejudices.

There is however very little attention for the position of older people, resulting in a lack of tailor-made approaches to protect the rights of older people. This is problematic given that in 2050 the relative number of older people is expected to be doubled to 22%, from which 80% lives in low- and middle-income countries. It is in these countries where older people are especially at risk of being marginalised.

What we do

Dorcas creates networks and day care centres where local actors - be they student volunteers, private companies or institutions such as churches - commit to supporting older people. This support includes food and other basic needs assistance, access to medical services and outreach work with families and local authorities. These support initiatives are designed to help older people participate in society. Our Adopt a Granny programme extends this provision of support to the international community, enabling thousands of private donors to support older people worldwide. Finally, we connect older people with each other and help them to start or participate in dignified income generating activities.



of older people in low-income countries receive a pension.

1 in 9

human rights conventions specifically protects the rights of older people.


of institutionalised older people suffer from abuse.

Our initiatives

Opinion article: Why ageing of the African continent should be included in the Dutch Africa Strategy

Dorcas is committed to the goal of leaving no one behind in international cooperation. To honour this commitment, Dorcas actively engages with the Dutch government on its international policies and strategies. In February 2023, the Dutch government will release its Africa Strategy. Our political advisor, Jochem Duinhof, explains in the following opinion article why global ageing should be incorporated integrally in order to protect older persons from falling into poverty.

Article: Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World

With articles and other publications Dorcas is raising awareness on the rights of older people.

Older people are resilient and resourceful albeit often not by their own choice. It is a sometimes brutal necessity to just survive. Read more on the Resilience and Contributions of Older Women.

Factsheet: the situation of older persons in Eastern Ukraine

A recent Dorcas’ inquiry shows that a relatively large number of older persons stay at home instead of fleeing the area, even when they live close to the line of contact. We also see that older persons and persons with a disability are underrepresented in
IPD facilities.

Dorcas report on older people in conflict 'Falling through the cracks'

Dorcas published a report, which concludes that, in Ukraine, older people are particularly vulnerable to suffering the consequences of the war with Russia. The researchers based their conclusion on previously published reports and recent information from Ukraine.

The report states that too little is being done to ensure that the help provided meets direct needs of older people. In the report, the situations in Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and Ukraine are discussed, and it is concluded that the rights of older people are often not protected well enough.

Opinion article in Dutch newspaper Trouw - September 27th 2022

On Wednesday September 28th, the Dutch parliament discussed the main policy document on Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, called "Doen waar Nederland goed in is" (Doing what the Netherlands does best).

In response to this policy document, our colleagues Jochem Duinhof (Political Advisor) and Arendje Menkveld (Thematic Expert on older people) wrote an opinion article that was published in Dutch newspaper Trouw.

The original Dutch version can be read on the website of Trouw.

Dorcas’ key recommendations for protecting the rights of older people

  • Apply these recommendations to all groups of people at risk of being marginalised and excluded.
  • Listen to the voices of all older people and acknowledge their wisdom, knowledge and experience. Provide accessible methods for older people to participate in, make decisions about and provide feedback on the humanitarian programmes and the assistance provided to them. Ensure this input is incorporated into interventions.
  • Ensure the provision of psychosocial support to older people, particularly those living alone. Support and engage older people in activities which help overcome their isolation and reduce their anxiety.
  • Ensure that older people who have not been able to leave their homes, including those living in institutions, are reached, evacuated if they wish, provided with essential life-saving humanitarian support and tailored and prioritised assistance.
  • Ensure that older people who have fled can access full basic services, including food and water, healthcare including mental health support, social services including pensions, transport and information.
  • Prioritise collecting reliable data about numbers, needs and priorities of older people.
  • Ensure that community, family or other support and protection networks and mechanisms for older people are restored and strengthened.
  • Ensure sufficient staffing capacity at national, regional and global levels to engage and respond on issues related to older people.
  • Invest in capacity building and skills training of humanitarian actors to understand and respond to the needs and rights of older people in the humanitarian assistance they provide.Ensure that any funding provided for responses to crises caused by conflicts includes older people as a priority at-risk group, and that there is attention for sub-groups of the older population that face specific risks.
  • Review public statements and appeals about conflicts to ensure that references to the rights and needs of older people are included. Highlight the specific impact on older people in high-level and political statements about conflicts to ensure sufficient visibility for an at-risk population.

Other details and activities

Community Safety Nets

Dorcas builds a social safety net around older people, so that the community increasingly looks after them. For example, we encourage schools and churches to use their resources and talents in such a way that they support older people and involve them in the community. When young and old meet, it is meaningful, educational and ... fun for both sides.

Portraits of Power

In 2021, we portraited older women using their powerful personalities to advocate for change in their communities: at economic, social and political levels. Be inspired by their resourcefulness, hope and resilience.

Interview on our report: Older People in Conflicts