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Welsh Declaration of Rights for Old People

Last week, Wales became the first country in the world to adopt a Declaration of Rights for Older People. Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas said,

“The number of older people in Wales is growing and there is no dedicated set of rights for older people in the UK. Age discrimination and ageism are widely tolerated across the world.

"We must dispel old-fashioned stereotypes of people based on their age, and recognise and value the enormous contributions that older people make in all of our communities across Wales.

“I’m therefore delighted that Wales is once again leading the way by publishing a Declaration of the Rights of Older People in Wales.”

According to NewsWales, Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, worked with elders themselves to create the Declaration,

”...which has received cross-party support in the National Assembly for Wales, is based on the UN Principles for Older Persons and sets out what older people have said they value and what rights they feel would support and protect them.”

The Declaration is meant not only to help old people understand their rights in Wales, but to be a guide for those who are responsible for the development and delivery of social services to Welsh elders.

Here are the six points in the Declaration along with the fuller explanations of each as laid out in the document:

I have the right to be who I am
Not all older people are the same and I have the right to be who I am. I am a unique person and have the right to be understood, considered and recognised as an individual. I have the right to be treated equally and without discrimination.

I have the right to be valued
Because I am human I have the right to be valued. My life is significant to me and those who care about me, and I have a right to live a life that has value, meaning and purpose. I matter. I am of worth both when I contribute to society and when I no longer do so.

I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life
I have the right to make decisions and be supported to do so if necessary. I have the right to exercise my free will and make choices. My opinion is the most important when decisions are being made about me and my life. I have a right to be supported to live independently.

I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live
I have the right to decide where I live and to choose the person or people to spend my life with. I have a right to be in my own home and with the community I love.

I have the right to work, develop, participate and contribute
My life does not come to an end because I have reached a certain age. I have a right to work. I have a right to full involvement in my own community. I have a right to thrive and to continue learning, developing and growing. I have a right to support so I can continue contributing. I have a right to explore new things.

I have a right to safety, security and justice
I have a right to be taken seriously when I am afraid. I have a right to information and advice that addresses my worries and uncertainties. If I need the law to protect me I should not be treated differently because I am older. I also have the right to take risks if I want to.

You will find the full document here [pdf].

A big thank you to TimeGoesBy reader Allan Moult for bringing the Welsh Declaration to my attention. I was, of course, reminded of An Elder Pledge which I've shown you before and hangs on the wall by my desk. Each supports the other nicely - declarations from government and from elders themselves.

Elders Pledge

The Pledge was written by elderlaw attorney, Orrin Onken. The poster is 12 inches by 36 inches and can be ordered from the Syracuse Cultural Workers website for $15 unframed plus shipping. There are also postcards and bookmarks of the pledge.

As the population of elders increases dramatically around the world, I hope Wales will not be the only the first of many countries to adopt such a Declaration and make it binding.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Reincarnation


If only we could force those unfeeling Congress persons to take the pledge and stick to it.

I love the part about being a "Unique Individual". Stereotyping will be (and has been)the ruination of us all.

That's great news. Llongyfarchiadau, Gwenda, da iawn!!

Expressing such views is a start. Let's hope they become inculcated within Welsh society and ultimately to our own as well.

Many times though seniors are docile. Up here in Canada they are getting rid of door to door mail delivery, I tried to rally my senior neighbors to join a campaign to lobby the elected officials. None of them showed any interest even though they will be personally impacted, their apathy towards being proactive on any issue leaves me fuming sometimes.

It's this way on everything, they never question authority in any way. That includes accepting poor care from medical professionals, never complaining, never questioning and acting very much like a dog that's been beaten down. Not sure if they were this way their entire life and it's a generational thing.

Unfortunately, many of us in our 70s and 80s are members of "The Silent Generation". We were taught to respect (and trust) authority, not to question and not to rock the boat. Possibly that made more sense then than it does now because most of our institutions and systems actually worked.

Extremism in politics has always existed, but it did not bring the government to a virtual halt as it has today. Corruption in politics and business is also nothing new, but it did not seem as all-pervasive then as it does now. Our generation grew up believing that professionals such as doctors and attorneys by and large could be trusted.

Many of us have learned to question authority, and we do not always remain silent. The original comment I intended to make was that a statement needs to be added to "elder declarations" providing for older people to have control over their end-of-life care. We should prohibit the medical-industrial complex from tethering us to tubes and beeping machines to keep us "alive" against our will when all hope of recovery is gone. The choice must always be with the individual or designated proxy.

Elizabeth is absolutely right. While the fact that any country cares enough to issue a declaration of rights for elders is great and Wales is to be commended, our rights don't mean much unless we have control over our bodies. We women didn't gain much by being put on a pedestal or when "Mom" was stitched into a pillow inside a big heart. The vote was a big step forward, but our real rights came with access to contraception and the Roe v. Wade decision.

Control over end of life decisions is analogous to these feminist rights and we should press our representatives on this issue just as we did when we were younger and control over our bodies was absolutely critical to our ability to achieve other life goals. Now that we have reached elderhood, it's absolutely critical that we not be forced to live out the end in a state of helplessness. I fully support the goals of Compassionate Choices and would like to see them enshrined in some sort of rights declaration that goes even farther than the one in Wales.

Absolutely, Meg! The idea that five conservative MEN control much of what happens today, especially related to women's reproductive rights, is downright scary. Women have been able to achieve goals other than (or in addition to) motherhood because we won the right to control our own bodies. Now that right is once again under serious attack.

Conservatives will go to the wall to protect a 7-week-old fetus but cut Food Stamps for kids who were born into poor circumstances. They rail against death with dignity while millions in Medicare dollars are spent during the last 3 months of life to keep very old, terminally ill people alive--often against their wishes. Common sense left the building along with Elvis!

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