It might be a country with a small population, but Wales is leading the way when it comes to older peoples rights. Wales has just published its Declaration of the Rights of Older People, the first of its kind in the world.
The Welsh Assembly is working hard to keep Wales ahead of the game with regard to older people. The government is concerned about the tolerance of ageism and the acceptance of stereotypes about older people all over the world, and wants to make sure Wales leads the way in establishing new attitudes towards older people.
Back in 2008 the Welsh Assembly created the position of Older People Commissioner, also a world first. Sarah Rochira was appointed in 2012, the second person to fill the role, for a term of four years. The purpose of the role is to provide support and information for Wales older people and their families.
The Declaration has been developed by the Older People Commissioner following extensive consultation with older people in Wales. So it incorporates the issues they feel are important to them. Although the declaration is not a legally enforceable document, it does clearly state what standards should be set with regard to older people and what their rights are, as already provided for by existing law. The initiative is closely aligned with the UN Principles for Older Persons.
The following key points summarised the issues which older people said were important to them:
I have the right to be who I am
I have the right to be valued
I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life
I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live
I have the right to work, develop, participate and contribute
I have a right to safety, security and justice
Now that the Declaration has been drawn up, the Welsh government is planning to put together an action plan for how to take the Declaration forward. Its primary relevance is to service providers of care for older people. It is also essential that all older people in Wales become aware of and familiar with the Declaration so that they know that they can seek the support they need to live without discrimination.
Wales is taking a strong position with regard to its care of and duties towards older people. Whether other countries follow suit remains to be seen, but there may be pressure particularly from other parts of the United Kingdom, for similar formal recognition and promotion of the rights of older people.
Most people over the age of 70 have at least two long term conditions, but this does not mean that they value their health any less. In many cases it is simply that they have acquired age-related conditions.