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Are we undervaluing older Australians? Here’s how enabling choice could tackle ageism

Two Senior Women Friends At Day Care Centre Sitting On Sofa Smiling At Each Other

The Royal Commission into Aged Care continues, with a number of new submissions highlighting how improvements can be made to Australia’s aged care system. One of these recent submissions was from EveryAGE Counts, a grassroots campaign which aims to tackle ageism and positively change thinking around how we view people who are ageing.

As reported by Australian Ageing Agenda, in its submission, EveryAGEcounts contends that ageism has a direct impact on the quality of care provided, by failing to envision a good life which might include age-related impairment and for the absence of a human rights approach to care. In simple terms, they argue that society needs to place greater value on the lives of older Australians.

Amongst their recommendations was a call to ensure the design of the aged care system is informed by rights-based principles and to encourage industry to support the wellbeing of aged care recipients. A submission from the Australian Association of Gerontology also touched on the issue of ageism, making similar calls for the industry to ‘recognise the needs of the whole person’.

What is a rights-based approach to aged care?

According to the Human Rights Commission, a rights-based approach is about ensuring people-centred decision making that respects an individual’s right to choice, autonomy and independence. It also recognises difference and diversity in the older Australian population. A rights-based approach is also inextricably tied to the concept of dignity of risk – which argues that a duty of care must be balanced with the right of individuals to make decisions about their lives that could expose them to potential harm.

As reported here by the ABC, advocates argue that older people should have the same life choices as younger. But they also claim that stereotypes and perceptions of ageing need to shift before any real change to policy, staff training and regulation can happen. 
In the ABC segment, Ian Yates, Chief Executive of Council on the Ageing questions why our system continues to put older people in nursing homes instead of having appropriate, affordable and accessible housing that accommodates people of any age. It’s a trend that we are seeing in innovative aged care models around the world; ageing citizens living independently in their homes, with a strong connection to community support to enable and support that independence.

Older Australians need to have choice and control over their lives

If you are seeking support yourself, or looking for some aged care options for your parents, there are options for home care that support independence and autonomy. Mable is an online platform that enables you to connect with independent care and support workers in your community and choose the people who share your interests and suit your needs best.

It’s a model that puts choice and control at the centre – clients can choose who supports them, what services they receive and when. Together with their chosen independent support worker, they agree on an hourly rate. If you currently have a Home Care Package, it can allow you to get more hours of support from your funding than you would typically access via more traditional models. We call it self-managed Home Care Packages, as it provides the freedom for consumers to design their support around their life.

To take a look at independent support workers offering services in your area, you can search here.

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