Monday (1 October) was the International Day of Older Persons, a day on which older people and the contribution they make to our society are celebrated across the world.
The focus of this year’s celebrations was human rights, coinciding with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a particular emphasis on the people who are championing older people’s rights around the globe and driving this important issue up the policy and political agenda.
This work is vital as the importance of protecting and promoting people’s rights is often overlooked.
This is thankfully beginning to change, with an increased focus on rights within Welsh legislation and regulations, and a growing number of public bodies in Wales adopting a more rights-based approach to their work.
The Welsh Government has also made a clear commitment to ‘making rights real’ for older people, in response to calls made by my Office, which they re-affirmed in a statement on 1 October. I will be closely monitoring the action they take to ensure that what they deliver makes a meaningful difference and reflects the positive messages they have shared about the importance of, and their commitment to, older people’s rights.
Whilst the progress highlighted above is a welcome step forward, more work is still needed to ensure that older people understand their rights and, in turn, how they can use their rights in their day-to-day lives. A recent poll undertaken on my behalf found that over a third of older people in Wales – over 250,000 people – do not understand their rights. Furthermore, many of the older people who contact my Office have concerns that their rights may have been breached, and my casework team frequently provides help and support in situations where this has been the case.
Information is power and if an individual does not understand the rights they have, they will find it difficult to use them in their day-to-day lives and take action, if needed, to ensure their rights are upheld.
That’s why I published a new guide for older people on 1 October, so they have a better understanding of their rights and the legislation that underpins them, and to ensure they are in the strongest possible position to challenge discrimination, poor services or poor practice. The guide is already proving popular and copies are being distributed at events attended by my team and me throughout Wales, as well as through stakeholders working with and on behalf of older people.
Far from being seen as something intangible, irrelevant and unreachable, older people’s rights should be seen as a way to ensure equality and tackle discrimination, and as a way to drive up standards.
The International Day of Older Persons is an important reminder of why rights are so important for older people and as Commissioner I will continue to work every day to ensure that action is taken to make rights real for all older people in Wales.
Click here to download a copy of Know Your Rights: An Easy Guide