We hear a lot of discussion about rights but do any of us really know what our rights are? And more to the point, are these rights both fair and reasonable to expect in a democratic nation such as Australia?
I suspect most of us haven’t given this much thought. So as the movement towards a convention for the rights for older people starts to gather momentum, perhaps it is time to think about what rights you hope to retain as you grow older. And whether it is likely you will be able to age with independence and dignity.
As a director on the board of the International Federation on Ageing, I have the privilege of seeing a lot of information on ageing demographics and how other countries treat their older citizens. Sometimes it is shamefully. Older people in African nations, even some in countries such as India, can be left to scrape by on a few dollars a day. Not for them the luxury of considering whether they might take a cruise or a coach tour, spend time with relatives, or simply relax in their local community, distracted by golf, the library, grandchildren and some great coffee shops.
But it is not just developing countries where older people can be isolated, marginalised and much worse.
As low as it is, Australia at least benefits from an Age Pension which provides a safety net for those with low or no savings for their retirement years. But having enough money to pay for basics such as food, rent and utilities, does not in itself mean our older citizens rights are in any way protected.
There are many forms of elder abuse and many instances where older people have had their rights infringed. At a basic level, age discrimination can occur when we are denied fair treatment in accommodation, clubs, education, employment, purchasing decisions, sport and at local government level. It is often very difficult to prove. But at least there are laws to try to help older people to a better deal.
At a broader level, we are all entitled to freedom, respect, equality and dignity.
Many frail elder adults are denied these basic rights on a daily basis. Some are victims of elder abuse by family members, caregivers, public officials, even random strangers. Sometimes this is connected to financial abuse, sometimes emotional (including bullying and harassment), sexual and physical. It often goes unreported, or when reported, the damage has already occurred.
So to return to the original question, What are your rights as you age? Well here’s a list for starters:
- A roof over your head
- A fair Age Pension
- Ongoing training
- To be consulted about your own welfare
- To be listened to
- Access to grandchildren
- Age-Friendly Cities where you can get around the streets and public transport with ease
- A voice in the future of this country
And there are probably a thousand more …
What do you think? Are your rights protected? Or do you feel vulnerable? Have you experienced a loss of basic human rights because of your age?
Tell us your experience now – and what can be done to improve the situation for others.