An ageist society is a society unable to ensure dignity to those in need of care – and we may all suffer from it!
We all are likely to need care at some point in our lives. We might have an accident and live with a disability as a consequence. We may become frail as we get older. We may have a chronic health condition that makes our life more difficult in older age… A piece by Borja Arrue Astrain, Project and Policy Officer responsible for long-term care and elder abuse at AGE Platform Europe.
The sad truth is that, when that happens, we are all likely to see our dignity at stake. We may lose the ability to make decisions on our own; we may move into a residential setting against our will; we may suffer neglect and even maltreatment from ill-trained or overburdened professionals; we may lose the ability to choose when we go out, how we use our financial resources, what we eat, whom we see, whom we love.
Ageism, combined with the misconception of welfare state as a financial burden, is at the basis of our societies’ incapacity to offer quality care and support to those who need it. And this has very concrete and dramatic consequences on the physical and emotional integrity of older people.
Between 2008 and 2012, with the aim to challenge the status quo and allow for the emergence of a conversation about care and dignity in society, a group of organisations of older persons, researchers and providers of services delivered a European Charter of the rights and responsibilities of older people in need of long-term care and assistance and a European Quality framework for long-term care services. These affirm that older people in need of care remain rights-holders who need to be able to live in dignity as anyone else. They identify rights and quality principles, as well as areas of action, that are critical to enforcing such view, and provide guidance on how care services can adapt to materialise it.
Both documents are an integral element of AGE Platform Europe’s Toolkit on the Dignity and Wellbeing of older persons in need of care. This toolkit aims to raise awareness among policymakers and care practitioners of ongoing debates and frameworks at European and international levels regarding older people in need of care. It provides arguments to develop access to quality care, and reminds the rights and quality principles identified in the European charter and quality framework, which can guide the development of better policies and services.
But ensuring dignity to older people in need of care should be the endeavour of society as a whole. Only if society stands up against ageism will access to quality, dignified care, become a reality for everyone. Let’s fight now for the society we want.
Borja Arrue Astrain is Project and Policy Officer responsible for long-term care and elder abuse at AGE Platform Europe, firstname.lastname@example.org