Each day as we learn more about ageing in aged care residential establishments I am realising that many of them are anything but homes and shouldn’t be called such until their attitudes change in the future. The latest challenge is the death of a 92 year old lady who lived through the illness caused by the virus but died afterwards from what her granddaughter described as the loneliness created by isolation regulations. It reminds me of a 92 year old who said she had lived too long- she had outlived all her friends and two of her children. I suspect that many older people can identify with these situations. They pinpoint the very different priorities many older people have from the rest of society. One elderly resident in an aged care facility said that he had come into it to die and the sooner it happened the better. Surely we can do better than this.

Management in many of the aged care facilities don’t seem to realise that death for an older person is a very different event than that for a younger person for whom it is something that will happen in the distant future and they don’t need to worry about it. Recent submissions by organisations involved in fighting for the rights of older people have now shown that banning visitors violates the human rights of residents and are not acceptable. The ban meant that for many older people the best part of their current lives had been taken away from them and what was left was hardly bearable. This is a manmade problem created by unqualified management. At one establishment with multiple deaths the board apparently didn’t instruct the staff on how to recognise the symptoms of the virus nor did they teach them how to use their protective clothing properly, thus contributing to the huge death toll. Management has now been forced to employ another person on their team who presumably has the necessary skills.

I would like to think that all aged care facilities in future will be required to employ board members and management staff with the necessary human skills required to run such a facility, not just the skills to run a successful business. A country which allows unconscionable behaviour towards its elderly residents is neither a civilised nor successful one. Older people have so much to offer to our society it doesn’t make sense to deny them the opportunity, nor facilitate them, to contribute. The current situation does not make sense particularly when some Universities are now running on line courses on ageing which are very accessible.

I hope that those older people who have died because of the virus, particularly through unintelligent and ignorant staff behaviour, particularly management staff, may not have done so in vain. If we can offer an acceptable environment then the real problem of ageing, the physical deterioration, can be catered and compensated for. Meanwhile we are spending a fortune on trying to find a cure for mental deterioration so that people can live longer in a world that doesn’t understand their capabilities or accept that they have rights. In looking at elder abuse let’s include aged care management members, their qualifications in aged care and their decisions.

One day most of us will have to move into aged care facilities. For those of us not yet at that stage we need to ensure that when we do we will move into better conditions than those that currently exist. We should be able to move into real aged care homes which help us to maintain the rights we currently have in our communities and provide an appropriate environment in which to do this.