Basic human rights have been a major point of discussion – and contention – for much of 2017. Unfortunately, in my role, I see the rights of a particular group of Victorians ignored far too often. The rights of our seniors.
Despite the enormous contribution older people make to local communities, far too many are made to feel less valued, burdensome or intimidated because of ageist attitudes and behaviours.
We need to do more to ensure older Victorians are recognised for the critical role they play in building strong and healthy communities across the state, and remain connected to the people, places and activities around them.
We also need to start changing the way we view older people. More and more Baby Boomers are entering retirement feeling fit, healthy and excited about what the future holds.
They have a huge amount of knowledge, skills, experience and enthusiasm to contribute to the community, and should be given every opportunity to do so. Not only for their sakes, but for ours.
As a community we need to speak with and about older people in a way that shows respect and value for the lives of each older person. And we need to make this conversation a priority.
Staying connected to the older people we love shouldn’t be an afterthought. Wherever possible we should be making regular contact with our parents, grandparents, relatives and older friends.
This will ensure we can share in each other’s lives and stories, as well as keeping an ear out for anything that doesn’t seem quite right. Sadly, older Australians are often vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse; it’s our responsibility to ensure this doesn’t happen.
The positive news is that many older people are more than able to make educated choices about their lives, both for today and tomorrow. They have the ability – and certainly the right – to make their own plans based on what is right for them.
The upcoming month-long Victorian Seniors Festival, which kicks off Sunday 8 October, is a perfect example of how we can encourage our state’s one million plus seniors remain active, healthy, safe and included. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the contribution they make to our community.
So why not contact your older loves ones and invite them to attend?
You can now connect with Gerard on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SeniorVicCommissioner
Commissioner for Senior Victorians
Gerard Mansour is a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of older Victorians, with more than 25 years’ experience working in the aged and wider community service sectors. He has contributed significantly to policy development and implementation for myriad services assisting senior Victorians.