A separate statute for the elderly will also go a long way in changing negative stereotypes and ageist attitudes about senior citizens which result in age-discriminatory practices in the workforce, as well as in society.
Although advances in medical sciences have increased seniors’ life expectancy and quality of life, stereotypes that equate old age with frailty and diminished capacity largely prevail.
A law that advocates for and clearly defines the rights of seniors can help eliminate negative attitudes towards ageing.
“Ageist attitudes portray older people as being unable to make their own decisions. They often strip seniors of their rights to make important decisions about their own finances, employment, living arrangements, family life and participation in community.
“Often, the intention is well-meaning. Concerned families make decisions for, rather than with, their elderly parents or grandparents – ranging from what they eat to how they spend their money and even when to sell their home – because they worry for their well-being and safety.
“However, seniors deserve autonomy in making decisions that affect their lives. This includes decisions about medical care, living arrangements and inheritance, which can be made ahead of time.
“For example, an elderly person who is diagnosed with early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may discuss with doctors and his family members what the best options are for him before his disease affects his ability to make decisions himself. Doctors and family members then have the duty to implement his decision which allows the senior dignity.
“We hope that having a specific law for seniors will change the general perception of seniors from being a group that requires charity or welfare to being seen as members of society that have just as much rights as everyone else,” says Dr Zulazhar.