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Human Rights for Elders

Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging by Connie Mason Michaelis

The first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations, reads, “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Those rights were attributed to “all human beings regardless of their nation, location, language, religion, ethnic origin or any other status.” We continue to enlarge our thinking about those that are recognized as a protected group, but should age be added to that list? Have you considered that the cultural attitudes and treatment of our Elders should fall under the classification of human rights?

The history of Senior care in the United States is not a glowing example of upholding human rights. We still have significant work to do to reform our system of caring for older adults---a system that, in many ways, still resembles the days of poor farms, old folk, and convalescent homes. Most Seniors want to stay in their own homes, even when they know it is not safe because they assume they will lose their rights! The inherent rights to freedom, dignity, peace, hope, and justice must be upheld wherever care is provided. The old medical model of nursing homes that were initially designed and built by hospitals remains intact today. With their long hallways, medical carts, and lack of privacy, we are, in essence, putting the frail and elderly in hospitals for the rest of their lives. It denies them dignity and equal rights. Senior care can be accomplished in a beautiful homelike atmosphere where Elders are treated as family, not like patients. It is the wave of the future!

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