Ombudsman Kräuter discusses rights for older persons with UN expert
Ms Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, visited the Austrian Ombudsman Board (AOB) to inform herself about the general situation of older persons in Austria. In the long-term, society continues to age and the group of those who are older than 80 years of age will represent the fastest growing segment of the Austrian population. Adopting a positive attitude towards ageing, without hiding or blandishing the more difficult and troublesome aspects of it, is therefore of utmost importance to the AOB.
Complaints received and preventive monitoring of specialized institutions have shown that a self-determined and autonomous life in old age can very quickly be jeopardized if age-appropriate conditions and coping mechanisms do not exist. Whenever the media, politicians or the economy tackle the topic of old age, they tend to focus on sustainable financing for nursing care only, i.e. if and how we will be able to afford it in the near future. Safeguarding and ensuring top-quality nursing care on a long-term and extensive basis is a task that the Federal Government and the Laender can only solve in close cooperation. Maintaining a person’s dignity throughout old age and in spite of a growing need for help, is a challenge all sectors of society must face.
What we need is the development of a more supportive social environment, a fully barrier free infrastructure and the fact that health treatment offers must be accessible without discrimination in order to maintain or improve the physical and psychological resources of older persons. It is equally important to integrate gerontological and geriatric know-how in medical training, to focus on drug safety and the avoidance of polypharmacy and to broaden the access to hospice and palliative care.
The Independent Expert also showed great interest in the prevention of violence and the Austrian system of legal guardianship, which does not comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The numerous complaints which are brought to the attention of the AOB in this field clearly show how much people suffer from the fact that there lives are entirely under someone else's control. This is a sever violence of a person’s fundamental rights, which very often affects older people. The only way to solve this, is to introduce a new process of some kind of supported decision-making. Efforts along these lines are currently underway in Austria.
In conclusion, Ms Kornfeld-Matte firmly stressed that the main emphasis should be on ensuring that older persons can lead a self-determined and autonomous life as long as possible. In view of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (2002), it was also discussed which measures are implemented in Austria to support such “active ageing” and also which initiatives address older persons with a migration background.
The mandate of the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons was established in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 24/20 in September 2013. Ms Rosa Kornfeld-Matte was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons by the Human Rights Council in May 2014. Holding this mandate, Ms Kornfeld-Matte seeks to enhance common understanding of the fact that older persons enjoy all human rights and to promote the implementation of measures which foster and protect the rights of this specific group.