Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Spt-Oct 2013 Contents The dawning of the age
of (older) activists
A UN convention on the rights
of older people; the abolition
of a retirement age; tough age
discrimination laws and holding
the health system to account.
The activists of the 1960s sexual
revolution have a new social
revolution in their sights, writes
ANYONE IN ANY doubt about
the impact that baby boomers
will have on the fabric of society
in the coming decades should
think again if the experience of
this year's COTA National Policy
Forum is any indication.
It was very much a theme of
power to the (older) people when
advocates, academics, policy-
makers, legislators, politicians
and activists came together
at the National Press Club in
Canberra for the annual forum
event on 23 July.
In the same way that it is
argued that the baby boomer
cohort forged the new social
freedoms of the 1960s and the
culture of money and excess of the
western world in the 1980s, baby
boomers are now forging a new
understanding of growing older.
From a UN convention on
the rights of older people, to
'inclusionary' urban zoning, to
the practicalities of dying well
at home, the interests of the
baby boomer cohort continue
to influence and capture the
zeitgeist of another decade. The
title of the event, 'Rights, respect
and recognition: a new deal for
older Australians', said it all.
Topics highlighted in the
forum this year were age
housing, health and the right to a
good death. Underpinning all the
themes was the issue of whether
the Australian government should
support a new UN Convention on
the Rights of Older People.
Human rights lawyer, Professor
Simon Rice challenged the need
to ask for anyone's date of birth in
all but a few key legal contexts.
"Why do you need to know my
age?" he asked, noting that many
online forms are rejected unless a
date of birth is given.
"It's not because of my actual
age but because of attributes
and characteristics imputed to be
associated with that age.
"We need to abandon the
reliance on chronological age and
demand that these organisations
make explicit their reasons for
wanting to know. If we did that,
the answer would be that it's not
your chronological age that they
care about, it's the associations
and assumptions they make
based on that age."
Professor Rice said there was
a need to move the policy debate
around age discrimination into
"We need to recharacterise
the needs of older people as
entitlements," he said. "We need
to shift from the language of
desire to rights; to move from
'being supported and assisted' to
'being entitled'; from being reliant
on charity and welfare to being
entitled to a dignified life."
YOU ARE WHAT
Language was a recurring theme
throughout the day's presentations
although what became clear was
that it's complicated.
Former deputy Prime Minister,
and professorial associate at
the Centre for Public Policy at
the University of Melbourne,
Brian Howe, said he rejected
the term 'seniors', referencing
it as American and somehow
pejorative. Instead he said 'older'
was his preferred term. Senator
Bronwyn Bishop, speaking later
in the day as part of the election
panel, was equally adamant about
preferring the word 'senior'.
Elsewhere, discussion turned
to replacing the word, 'care'
with the word 'support'; while it
was widely agreed that the word
'consumer' should be jettisoned.
"I prefer 'people'," said COTA
Australia CEO, Ian Yates before
reverting to the 'consumer' handle
for the purposes of the day.
From another language
perspective, Chair of
the Federation of Ethnic
Communities Council of
Australia (FECCA), Pino Migliorino
criticised the Department of Health
and Ageing for severely limiting
access to health and aged care
services for people with little or
no English. He pointed out that
the government's new My Aged
Care website, often referred to as
the Aged Care Gateway, offered
access to the site in only six
community languages, despite
offering 53 languages for clients
needing access to information
about Medicare, Centrelink
and Child Support. He was
particularly critical of accessibility
to the Personally Controlled
Electronic Health Record (PCEHR),
which he said offered no access at
all for non-English speakers.
Prof Howe said there was a need
to face up to the fact that the old
model of housing in Australia
was not the most appropriate
one for the future. He said it
was important to think about
how to deal with that, personally
advocating for 15 per cent of all
housing developments to be set
aside as social housing, alongside
more 'inclusionary' zoning in all
states and territories in Australia.
Ross Clare, Director of
Professor Simon Rice, Australian
National University College of Law
Professor Brian Howe, the Centre for
Public Policy, University of Melbourne
12 | SEPTEMBER -- OCTOBER 2013 | AAA
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