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'We are waiting for old people to die', says Rowan Williams in his last speech as Archbishop of Canterbury
09:00 GMT, 15 December 2012
In his final speech in the House of Lords, Dr Rowan Williams said attitudes of 'contempt and exasperation' towards the ageing population were contributing to a range of elder abuse
The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed for an end to damaging stereotypes of older people, which he says have created a climate in which they suffer abuse.
In his final speech in the House of Lords, Dr Rowan Williams said attitudes of 'contempt and exasperation' towards the ageing population were contributing to a range of abuse, from patronising and impatient behaviour to physical mistreatment.
He referred to estimates that a quarter of the older population experience elder abuse in some form and called for the Government to appoint a national Older People's Commissioner, the Independent reported.
Dr Williams, who will step down from his role at the end of the year to be replaced by the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, said: 'Too often we want to rush children into pseudo-adulthood; too often we want older citizens either to go on as part of the productive machine as long as possible or to accept a marginal and humiliating status, tolerated but not valued, while we look impatiently at our watches, waiting for them to be “off our hands”.
'We tolerate a very eccentric view of the good life or the ideal life as one that can be lived only for a few years between, say, 18 and 40.
'It is assumptions about the basically passive character of the older population that foster attitudes of contempt and exasperation, and ultimately create a climate in which abuse occurs.'
The public are becoming 'dangerously used' to speaking and thinking about the ageing population as a burden on both public and private resources, he added, despite half of over 60s carrying out volunteer work worth the equivalent of at least 50billion.
He believes expecting and valuing their continued contribution to society will end damaging stereotypes and older people will no longer be viewed as dependent on the state, their families or their neighbourhoods.
There are one million people over 65 living alone in the UK.
Last week, a study by the Friends Of
The Elderly charity showed that half a million elderly people will spend
Christmas alone this year in Britain.
the year, one in six of senior citizens hear from family and friends
barely once a week, and for one in ten it’s less than once a month.
Last week, a study by the Friends Of The Elderly charity showed that half a million elderly people will spend Christmas alone this year in Britain
The Friends Of The Elderly survey showed that despite 87 per cent of people feeling it is the responsibility of family to look after older relatives, worries about the financial burden (19 per cent), being too busy (45 per cent) and living too far away (36 per cent), mean that almost half of those surveyed (47 per cent) are dreading the day their grandparents or parents need to be cared for.
Richard Furze, Chief Executive of Friends of the Elderly, said: ‘We can all make a special effort at Christmas and it will make such a difference, not just with our relatives but with older people in our communities.
'Our Christmas campaign “Friends Open Doors” is focused on encouraging people to show a simple gesture to older people, such as simply checking in on an older neighbour regularly, popping a card through their door or having a chat with an older person at the shops. This can be enjoyable for both young and older people, only takes a moment and can make a real difference.
'If you live far away or can’t afford to travel to see an older relative regularly, a phone call can really make the difference for those who live on their own and can’t get out as much as they would like.'
The survey results also showed that 47 per cent of people feel local communities should take more responsibility for looking after older people.
Almost half of those surveyed believe people in the UK should have a legal responsibility for looking after their parents in older age, as they are in France, while 27 per cent of people think it is down to the Government to take care of the elderly.