On the 21st – 22nd of March, EUD attended the Ageing and Disability event jointly organised by the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the European Co-operation in Anthroposophical Curative Education (ECCE). During this seminar, stakeholders and partners discussed the issues facing older persons with disabilities as well as the community-based support for older people with disabilities.
James Crowe, EASPD President, welcomed the participants and highlighted that it is highly important to address the challenge currently posed by the ageing population in the EU, as the number of older people, regardless of whether or not they are people with disabilities is increasing, making it crucial to tackle the challenges they face.
The keynote speech focused on bridging and mainstreaming ageing and disability together in services, policy and research. Dr. Jerome Bickenbach, of the University of Lucerne and the Swiss Paraplegic Research, explained that the regulations on ageing and disability are similar most of the time as they aim to address similar issues and needs. From a conceptual point of view, there is no difference between ageing and disability. The misconception that people with disabilities and those who are ageing have nothing in common prevents a cross fertilization of best practices and certainly affects the way policy is shaped.
Afterwards, the cases studies, moderated by Asel Kadyrbaeva, Research and Development Officer at EASPD, were discussed. A practical presentation on bridging ageing and disability was given, which was followed by a group discussion on challenges that older people with disabilities face regarding the accessibility of health care. EUD has raised the issue of accessibility to communication for the deaf elderly in retirement homes. Without access to sign language and sign language environments, deaf seniors suffer from isolation, a lack of a social life, and a lack of access to information and communication. The appropriate training to meet the specific needs of older persons with disability are necessary.
The last part of the seminar was dedicated to the discussion of legal and policy frameworks. It was stressed that there is a need for cooperation at all levels and authorities should create adapted structures and systems that take into account the needs of an ageing population and comply with the legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Inmaculada Placencia Porrero, Senior Expert from the Disability and Social Inclusion Unit of the European Commission, concluded the event by considering that the connection between disability and ageing is a current problem and one of the barriers to its solution is the current fragmentation among policies and legislation. Cooperation with civil society organisations should be strengthened through joint initiatives.
EUD will explore its options on how its advocacy work can better address the needs of older deaf people.