Em­pow­er­ment and na­tional in­spi­ra­tion of the el­derly

Malta Independent - - FIGURE THIS - Justyne Caru­ana

Dr Caru­ana is Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for the Rights of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­ity and Ac­tive Age­ing

De­spite all the un­fair twists and hur­dles, Leo de­served the ap­point­ment from the out­set for his in­tegrity and ex­pe­ri­ence in the field. Look­ing at the way the whole process un­folded, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s words came to mind: “Truth will ul­ti­mately pre­vail where there is pain to bring it to light.” The un­due pres­sures made through­out, have in fact re­con­firmed the dam­age that can be caused in the Euro­pean fora when some peo­ple re­sort to ex­port­ing their very lim­ited vi­sion of how to run the coun­try. Leo’s abil­i­ties and hon­esty shone bright de­spite lo­cally-prompted neg­a­tiv­ity, with the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters ap­prov­ing with­out hes­i­ta­tion the Labour Gov­ern­ment’s nom­i­nee. Neg­a­tive tac­tics cre­ate pain and de­lay, but even­tu­ally truth pre­vails! There are lessons to be learnt from all such in­stances as we move on to fur­ther chal­lenges.

All set for the stan­dards author­ity

Qual­ity stan­dards are a must for the gov­ern­ment when pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary ser­vices to dif­fer­ent sec­tors of our pop­u­la­tion. We strongly be­lieve that such reg­u­la­tions are never meant to be merely doc­u­mented on pa­per, but im­ple­mented in what­ever sec­tor they are ap­pli­ca­ble. Last Wed­nes­day, my Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tariat con­cluded an eight-week long con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod with all stake­hold­ers in the el­derly sec­tor in or­der to have a re­li­able and clear un­der­stand­ing of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of na­tional stan­dards for homes for the el­derly.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Strat­egy for Ac­tive Age­ing, the mis­sion of care homes should go be­yond the tra­di­tional con­cept of ‘care of the el­derly’, but rather to en­able res­i­dents to re­al­ize their full well­be­ing po­ten­tial. The strat­egy it­self is premised on three themes – ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in the labour mar­ket, so­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion, and in­de­pen­dent liv­ing. Par­al­lel to this we have es­tab­lished stan­dards to favour a life­long vi­sion of ac­tive age­ing as a hu­man right of all older per­sons ir­re­spec­tive of their lev­els of health sta­tus.

Pro­mot­ing ac­tive cit­i­zen­ship

The stan­dards for all care homes are based on the prin­ci­ples of per­son-cen­tred care, dig­nity, pri­vacy, phys­i­cal and men­tal well­be­ing, self-ful­fil­ment, au­ton­omy, em­pow­er­ment, equal­ity, the right to com­plain and le­gal re­course. To­gether with all those in­volved in the run­ning of all homes – state and pri­vate ones, we are now all geared to have a spe­cific au­ton­o­mous Author­ity in place af­ter the rel­a­tive Bill is tabled in Par­lia­ment

The par­tic­i­pa­tion of all stake­hold­ers dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod was very en­cour­ag­ing, con­tribut­ing to fur­ther prac­ti­cal mea­sures for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the stan­dards agreed to. The new Author­ity will reg­u­late prac­tices and ser­vice lev­els, in­clud­ing hu­man re­sources, in all homes. They are now ex­pected to pro­mote the hu­man rights and in­ter­ests of older peo­ple, while also pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for them, en­sur­ing the elim­i­na­tion of age dis­crim­i­na­tion and en­cour­age best prac­tices in so­cial and health care ser­vices.

Best work­ers and team spirit

For the sec­ond year run­ning, my Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tariat and the man­age­ment of St Vin­cent de Paule have or­gan­ised two spe­cial awards for the worker and the best team of the year. This con­test is not only aimed at re­ward­ing the best, but to also draw at­ten­tion to the skills and ded­i­ca­tion of all the work­force, high­light­ing the team spirit that staff in the same ward can reach when car­ry­ing out their du­ties.

It is most ad­mirable how some work­ers can walk the ex­tra mile to en­sure that ser­vices are pro­vided with a pro­fes­sional and hu­mane ap­proach. The en­thu­si­asm shown by all work­ers at the award-giv­ing event was a clear ex­pres­sion of the es­prit de corps that reigns through­out the long days and nights of ded­i­cated ser­vice.

I wish to con­grat­u­late this

year’s win­ner, Ron­ald Zaf­farese who is in charge of the Ac­tive Age­ing Unit, and staff of Ward St Joseph 4 who were cho­sen as the best team at St Vin­cent’s Long Term Care Fa­cil­ity. Over and above the se­lec­tion of th­ese col­lab­o­ra­tors for the award, the event it­self is also meant to ex­press our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to all work­ers who con­vey the best ser­vices to older per­sons.

Ac­tive age­ing an­nual award

Liv­ing longer must be ac­com­pa­nied by con­tin­u­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for par­tic­i­pa­tion in ev­ery­day de­ci­sions, ac­ces­si­ble health, se­cu­rity and so­cial pres­ence. This would en­sure that the age­ing process be­comes a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. In line with our strate­gic pol­icy for Ac­tive Age­ing we also or­gan­ise the an­nual Ac­tive Age­ing Award, re­quest­ing nom­i­na­tions from NGOs and in­di­vid­u­als for older per­sons who dis­tin­guish them­selves within the com­mu­nity for their zeal and ded­i­ca­tion.

This year’s event turned out to be yet an­other show­case of the re­silience and self­less­ness of so many older peo­ple, who rise above their age and health con­straints in or­der to sup­port and en­hance so­cial, cul­tural, sportive and phil­an­thropic ac­tiv­i­ties within their lo­cal or na­tional com­mu­ni­ties. Be­sides the in­valu­able and tire­less ser­vice they pro­vide to so many, they stand out as an ex­am­ple to many oth­ers. Malta and Gozo are blessed to have such an ad­mirable co­hort of older per­sons who, on a vol­un­tary ba­sis, in­vig­o­rate the life of so many or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The el­derly our – in­spi­ra­tion

Ac­tive Age­ing is not only a chal­lenge for the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide the nec­es­sary space and tools for em­pow­er­ment, but also an op­por­tu­nity to help the el­derly bet­ter their qual­ity of life and en­cour­age full par­tic­i­pa­tion within so­ci­ety. Al­though the award was pre­sented to only one per­son, the whole process and event are a clear recog­ni­tion of the good work done by thou­sands of el­derly peo­ple.

I take the op­por­tu­nity to heartily thank the thou­sands of el­derly peo­ple who, rain or shine, con­tinue to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety af­ter they re­tire, with many en­gaged in vol­un­tary work. You are all a great in­spi­ra­tion to our na­tion!

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