Commonwealth Parliamentarians Call to Respect Decisions of the Aged

Temba Gubula reports from Commonwealth Parliament Conference:

Commonwealth parliaments should empower senior citizens to decide on their care and treatment and protect professionals who respect the decisions of the elderly. That was said in a workshop at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference on the theme of caring for an ageing population.

While women have been at the centre of most discussions at this year’s CPC, delegates took time to identify policy solutions on how to care for the ageing population.

Most agreed with South Australian MP Hon Mr. Stephen Wade who said: “Parliaments should empower citizens to decide their care and treatment as they age and are at life’s natural end, and protect professionals who respect those decisions.”

Mr. Wade said parliaments are well-placed to protect the basic rights of citizens as they age, by ensuring that a person’s preferences and directions are known and respected, especially when they lost decision-making capacity.

“Legislation to support advance care planning can help in this task,” he said. Parliaments can ensure that the legislation and processes for directives respected cultural diversity.

Delegates agreed with Canadian MP, Hon Ms. Irene Mathyssen, who said Commonwealth countries are facing a population that will live longer. “Governments and parliaments must investigate all options in establishing care systems for an ageing population.”

Ms. Mathyssen said investment in home-care services and medical personnel who make regular visits to homes will allow more seniors to stay on in their own homes, which is more cost-effective than nursing homes and hospitals.

“Seniors also want age-appropriate health services, access to geriatric doctors and care providers, and in this regard we need to encourage medical students to go into geriatric medicine to meet the increasing demand for this specialty,” Mathyssen said.

She said there was a need to develop plans that will keep senior citizens healthy for as long as possible to prevent unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms.

MP Dr Lam Pin Min of Singapore spoke about the Ministerial Committee on Ageing (MCA) which seeks to champion physical activity, fitness, mental wellness and social engagements for seniors through its Active Ageing and Employability programme. The Aged Care Infrastructure programme seeks to oversee the physical planning and development of aged care facilities and champions the development of a senior-friendly environment. Dr. Min’s recommendation was accepted by the delegates when he said parliamentarians should “foster a society where seniors can age ‘in place’ in their homes and community.”

The Speaker of Goa Legislature in India, Hon Rajendra Arlekar, said in addition to an old age pension India discounted access to health care.