The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has already appointed an Older People’s Commissioner. Now it has adopted a Declarion of Rights for Older People. Enshrined in the delcaration, based on the UN Principles for Older Persons, these rights include: ‘I have the right to be who I am; I have the right to be valued, I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life; I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live, I have the right to work, develop and contribute and I have a right to safety, security and justice.’ What about Responsibilities of Older People? I have my own little list, but I’d be interested to know what others think these should be. I live in Wales, but personally, my Declaration would be more a list of ‘wants’: ‘I want to be more like Jesus: I know my value rests on my worth to Him, I look to God for direction and guidance in what I do, where I live, and with whom I live, I know that God has planned my ‘good works’ based on how He has equipped me beforehand (Ephesians 2:10), and as for safety, security and justice – I dwell under the shadow of His wing and have all His promises about safety, security and justice.’

Winifred, at the Leonora Home.
Winifred, at the Leonora Home.

Winifred Vanderberg was an 83 year old who gave up her right to live comfortably in her own home after her husband died, after a long debilitating illness, in one of our care homes.   They’d both been in the home for months before his death, not wanting to be separated.  Winifred wanted her life to count for God, not herself.  She’d been a nurse, and although she knew she couldn’t be ‘official’ at her age in the home, she asked the manager if she could stay on to help where she could.  And she did.  She encouraged the others, prayed with them, and encouraged staff too.  She did a million little things that made life brighter, and when she died a few months’ ago the manager said it was as though a little light had gone out in the home. Declarations such as the WAGs worry me a little because they’re issued with no ‘Responsibilities’ counterpoint. Or any real weight in law, as far as I can see. On that note … it’s a hot afternoon and I am just about to exercise my right to a huge mug of tea. Then I’m going to the gym.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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