This week the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People is launching a new inquiry into human rights. Between now and the spring we’ll be holding meetings to discuss our key topics, share best practice examples and collect evidence. This will inform a final report of recommendations on how we can further the protection of the rights of older people.
Age UK and Age International work together to promote older people’s rights here in the UK and around the world, where infringements of their rights through abuse, neglect and undignified treatment are all too frequent occurrences. We have a responsibility to ensure that older people are able to live in dignity and fulfil their potential and we are pleased to have this important opportunity to work on this through the APPG’s inquiry.
Age discrimination and ageism
Age discrimination and ageism are rife and whether in health and care, services or employment, the effects are damaging both to individuals and to society at large.
By failing to tackle ageism, societies are failing to benefit from the value that older people offer – as potential employees, volunteers, elected representatives and in many other roles.
In the UK, the inclusion of age as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 was a huge step forward and Age UK continues to challenge attitudes and practice, pressing the public and private sectors to work towards making fair access for our ageing population to employment and services a reality. Even so, much more must be done to ensure that tackling ageism and age discrimination is firmly embedded in laws and policies internationally, as well as in the UK.
Health and social care
Older people’s experiences of health and care is too often poor no matter where they are in the world. The outcomes of this poor care are not only clinical but can create fundamental challenges to an older person’s dignity and wellbeing, with insufficient regard to respect, autonomy and fairness.
Stories of abuse and neglect within both residential and nursing homes are far too common, with some shocking cases of deliberate cruelty, incompetence and criminal activity. These problems result in part from financial pressures, stretching services and staff too thinly. There is also the impact of professional practice and attitudes that can sometimes treat older people as a bed that needs to be emptied rather than a person to be cared for. Effective leadership is key to enabling good outcomes in all of these areas, creating ethical practice principles and a positive working ethos. Care services, particularly those for older adults living with dementia, also need to have effective training and supervision in place for all staff.
In many developing countries too, health services remain strongly orientated towards tackling infectious disease and mother and child health, missing the health challenges faced by the increasing numbers of older people. There is a chronic lack of attention to and understanding of older people’s health issues and we think this should change.
Human rights standards can provide vital protection for older people by helping to change practice and procedure, culture and attitudes, and offering redress when breaches of human rights have taken place.
Domestically, equality and human rights legislation, in the shape of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, provides a welcome and comprehensive range of tools with which to address breaches but challenges remain in a number of areas.
However, there are large gaps in the international standards that allow older people’s rights to be largely ignored. This is undermining older people’s efforts to be treated with dignity and respect, can shut them out of decision-making and can lead to further abuses of their human rights in all areas of life.
Age UK and Age International are therefore actively supporting the creation of further international legally binding agreements which will improve protection of the rights of older people. Existing human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), have demonstrated how such treaties can improve the way people are viewed and treated by society. A new international convention for older people would transform how governments and citizens respond to the rapidly evolving needs of older people globally.
How you can get involved
We’re asking interested organisations and individuals to submit evidence to inform the group’s report. You can read more about what to send and how here, as well as news on our upcoming meetings.
About the APPG
Age UK acts as the Secretariat to the APPG for Ageing and Older People. The APPG works to engage with the political and legislative issues before Parliament affecting people in later life.