In a video message for the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons in October 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said:
“…We reckon with the disproportionate and severe impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on older persons around the world – not only on their health, but on their rights and well-being.”
As a Catholic community involved with older persons, we too celebrate International Day of Older Persons on 1 October 2021. This year (and last) has had many challenges, living through a pandemic and as Catholics, we need to celebrate and pay respect to those in our community who have built and shaped our world.
We are reminded that older persons are the backbone of our Catholic communities as they have volunteered and participated and encouraged all to be a part of our faith community. In particular, this is a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the ongoing work and selfless commitment of the older members of our parishes. Their participation highlights for all of us what Catholic service in ministry is all about. These people generously give of their time and talents across the many ministries in parish life. The ministries of Catechists (SRE Teachers), Music and Liturgy, Pastoral Care and Hospitality and Ministries of the Altar are just some of the aspects of parish life where their example of service are most felt. We are truly grateful for their example, generosity of spirit and for their genuine support of all within a Parish. We pray that they may continue their important and highly valued work. We are truly grateful for their lived example of the Gospel message and for what they have and continue to offer to each and every parish.
This year’s theme for International Day of Older Persons is ‘Digital Equity for all ages.” Digital inclusion impacts older members of our community. We recognise that it is really important that we all have digital literacy. Sydney-based LEEP (https://leep.ngo/) bridges the divide and assists people to improve their online capabilities. During this time of COVID lockdown, digital technologies have enabled our Church in the Diocese of Parramatta to find new ways to thrive and share faith. There have also been many stories across the diocese of how the digital divide has been overcome to enable older persons in our communities to begin their Safeguarding training. Parish Coordinators have taken special care in supporting the development of Zoom skills for their parishioners. Children have been working alongside their parents to help them engage with the online safeguarding modules as well.
We, as a community, need to make sure that our older persons are well and safe particularly in 2021. Checking in with older persons, having conversations, being present for them helps their wellbeing and promotes well communities.
In Catholic Communities, we understand the need to ensure that any adult particularly an older adult is safe from harm and abuse as we recognise adults at risk and as Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, states: “The Diocese is committed to being a community of safeguarding. This means we have zero tolerance of abuse in any form. We promise to do everything we can so no child or other person in our care is harmed again.”
Some services that are directed towards helping older persons include:
1. CatholicCare Sydney (13 18 19) and their ‘Ageing Well’ series https://www.catholiccare.org/senior-services/ageing-well/
- Provides Masterclasses on various topics such as:
- Social Connection and Wellbeing
- Physical Wellbeing
- Navigating aged care
- Financial Planning for retirement and Beyond
- Ageing gracefully and living fruitfully
- There are caseworkers to assist you
2. The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) (1800 700 600) – https://opan.org.au/
- This is a free service that supports older people and their representatives to address issues related to Commonwealth funded aged care services.
- OPAN is funded by the Australian Government to deliver the National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP).
- OPAN aims to provide a national voice for aged care advocacy and promote excellence and national consistency in the delivery of advocacy services under the Program
- OPAN has many videos that promotes care and wellbeing for older persons: https://opan.org.au/videos/
3. Seniors Rights Service (1800 424 079) – https://seniorsrightsservice.org.au/about-us/about-us-overview/
- Is a community organisation dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of older people, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
- It provides free and confidential telephone advice, aged care advocacy and support, legal advice and rights-based education forums to seniors across New South Wales.
- They have aged care advocates who can assist older people who receive Commonwealth-funded aged care services at home or in residential care, as well as their carers or family members.
- They listen, clarify issues, provide information, inform you of your rights, identify possible outcomes, help you advocate for yourself and, if requested, speak up for you. For example, many people feel uncomfortable raising a complaint about a service they depend on for their daily care.
4. The Australian Government’s Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission – https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/about-us and the Charter of Aged Care Rights https://www.agedcarequality.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights#charter-of-aged-care-rights
The role of the Aged Care and Safety Commission is to:
- Protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of people receiving aged care.
- The Commission is the national end-to-end regulator of aged care services, and the primary point of contact for consumers and providers in relation to quality and safety.
- They promote high quality care and services to safeguard everyone who is receiving Australian Government funded aged care.
On 1 October 2021, let us be thankful for those people who have come before – and pay our respects to all older persons in our community.
Cathy McClellan is the Professional Officer and Maria Kervin is the Community Liaison and Education Officer in the Office of Safeguarding in the Diocese of Parramatta.