Read our latest news and updates and sign up for our upcoming events.
Theresa Flavin will share her own burning sense of urgency with the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Ageing (OWEGA) in New York this week.
‘I have perhaps another four years living in the community,’ said the advocate and activist, who was diagnosed with early on-set dementia at the age of 47.
‘And at the rate we are going, we won’t have a Convention on the Rights of Older People for at least another decade.’
OWEGA was established in 2010 to identify gaps in the framework of human rights of older persons and ways to address them.
The focus of this year’s meeting, from 3-6 April, is access to health services and social inclusion.
At an NGO briefing on Sunday, Flavin emphasised the need to break through the inertia of ‘process to begin to make real change’.
A member of OPAN’s National Older Persons Reference Group, she said she had travelled to New York ‘to bring the voice of dementia into the conversation.’
More than 50 million people in the world are currently living with dementia.
A further 10 million are likely to be diagnosed each year.
Their rights should be protected under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, said Flavin.
‘But when the rubber hits the road, their disability is not even seen because we have this curtain of ageism.’
In Australia, Flavin said, a young person living with dementia would be covered by the NDIS, under which they would be eligible for 30/40 hours care and support each week.
‘But once somebody turns 65, they get a Level 4 Home Care Package, which provides perhaps 16 hours care each week.
‘And the inclusions/exclusions framework in the government’s updated home care manual specifically excludes people with disability from supports that are not age-related.
‘So, you can see how age supersedes your disability rights.’
Flavin said this aged-based discrimination contributed to a lack of autonomy for older people as well as guardianship issues, elder abuse and unequal access to health care.
‘And we don’t have recourse to make a complaint.
‘A UN Convention on the Rights of Older People would put us on an equal footing with everyone else.
‘A lot of good work has already been done.
‘I’m hoping to contribute to the further development of this important framework, which will address ageism at a systemic level.’
Read OPAN’s position statement here.