Saturday, June 30, 2007

Just Older - Not Invisible - Special Post is Needed

Yeats once wrote: “That is no country for old men.” In 2007 this phrase is still suited to our unsupportive and ageist culture. It is time for an overhaul of these outdated beliefs, writes Paul Murray.

A favourite is from Sydney Smith who died in 1845: “He spent all his life in letting down buckets into empty wells; and he is frittering away his age in trying to draw them up again.”

In other words we shouldn’t try to recapture that first fine careless rapture. But to be sanguine about older age we need respect and political support.

It is apt then, just after Say No To Ageism week, to take stock of where we stand, to remember Leas Cross, the illegal withholding of pension money for nursing home beds, and the discrimination referred to by Niall Crowley of the Equality Authority.

Apparently age is the third highest ground for allegations of discrimination under the Equal Status Act. Under the Employment Equality Acts, age discrimination in the workplace is the biggest area being dealt with by the Equality Authority.

More than half those responding to a survey believed we treated older people worse than the young.

Special post is needed

But a special post is needed to let it be known that this State takes seriously the issue of the rights of the elderly, that there is someone backed statutorily to ensure that older citizens are treated with respect and have their rights protected.

Our final years are a time when we need all the support we can get. None of us wants to die in an overcrowded noisy ward, being inappropriately treated and with little consideration to the needs of our family.

Article edited for E.A. from the Irish times

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