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Speaking out for the aging population

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7115.1035h (Published 25 October 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1035
  1. Julia Tavares de Alvarez
  1. The Dominican Republic's ambassador to the United Nations, tells Janice Hopkins Tanne how she earned the nickname “ambassador on aging”

    The first thing you notice about Julia Alvarez is her enthusiasm, then her fluff of snowy white hair and bright red suit. The next things you notice are her intelligence, persistence, and willingness to speak out.

    Last week, for example, she told Kofi Annan, the United Nation's secretary general, to put his own house in order on issues of aging. In June he had called for a “rejuvenation” of the UN workforce-whose average age is 49, which he said was “far too high.” The UN's mandatory retirement age is 60 or 62, depending on when an employee was hired. “Nowhere in the UN charter does it say people have to retire at 60,” she said. “Strangely enough, the political posts-secretary general, undersecretary generals, assistant secretary generals, and heads of agencies-do not have a mandatory retirement age,” she told a non-governmental organisation's committee meeting on aging.

    Julia Alvarez, now 71, has led a bicultural, bilingual, binational life. She went to boarding school in New York and graduated in 1948 from the Connecticut College for Women with a degree in psychology and sociology. Soon after, she married Dr Eduardo Alvarez, a surgeon, and had two daughters. They moved back to …

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