Each year, several high-profile events are hosted alongside the United Nations General Assembly, when world leaders, scientists and development stakeholders are in a single place to discuss how to address the climate crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.(1) These events have highlighted the power of transformative youth leadership in demanding urgent global action on climate change, as well as the end of poverty, inequality and injustice.(2) But despite the high profile youth are receiving at this year’s events, older adults are also part of the solution and can make a significant contribution to shape our world, now and into the future.
The 17 Sustainable Developmental Goals
In 2015, all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.(3) This agenda provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for the world. It builds on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also referred to as SDGs and listed in the figure below), which are an urgent call for action by all countries (both developed and developing) in a global partnership. The SDGs recognize that ending poverty, hunger and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequalities, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our natural resources.(4)
As part of the 2030 Agenda, there is a pledge to “leave no one behind.”(3) This means that we must include all persons, of all ages, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable – including older adults. It also emphasizes the importance of human dignity across the life course. The Stakeholder Group on Ageing (an international coalition serving as the voice of older adults at the global level) reminds us of the importance of including ageing issues (and engaging older adults) in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Too often, older adults are invisible to those who promote economic and social development, or are perceived as passive recipients of care and services. Older adults are valuable assets that can use their experience, knowledge and skills to transform our world.
What can older adults do?
The world is facing daunting challenges. Addressing those will be complex and will require the commitment of everyone (from individuals to world leaders). A recent systematic review highlighted that, while some progress has been made in implementing the SDGs, many countries are still pursuing siloed or piecemeal approaches to sustainable development that have been met with limited success in the past.(5) This means that we need comprehensive approaches to implement the SDGs, and consider how the SDGs are linked together.
But change can start with you:
LEARN: Learn more about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (see video).
TAKE ACTION: The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World proposes simple things you can do that will make a big difference in the long-run (including reducing your energy consumption, reducing household waste, changing your eating habits, mentoring young people to guide them towards a better future, speaking up against inequality and injustice, or taking part in advocacy initiatives to promote the SDGs).
SPREAD THE WORD: Raise awareness about the SDGs among your friends, families, colleagues and communities.(6)