McDonald, T. A., 2017
Reframing Dementia Conference, Keynote
Background statement: Western societies are increasingly judgemental towards any who deviate from patterns of behaviour that serve popular social agendas. The types of 'group think' that were anathema to us in the 20th Century seem to have been embraced with fervour over the past two decades with the help of communication technologies. People and situations that deviate from popular conceptualisations of lifestyle and entitlement can be subjected to recrimination and public derision by those with limited epistemic boundaries. Any future acceptance into general society of people living with disability and mental confusion will require positive repositioning of attitudes and values around living with dementia in mainstream society. In other words, ageism and discrimination cannot be allowed to persist in relation to older adults with dementia symptoms who may inconvenience populist agendas.
Widespread negative positioning of older adults is a manifestation of ageism where the actions of older people are interpreted in ways that undermine their personal identity and integrity and place them in financial, social and health jeopardy in family and social contexts. When negative positioning is normalised within a community or society the consequences for older adults lie in unemployment, homelessness, poverty, poor health and social isolation hiding the human rights violations that occur. Increasing general understanding that some normalised behaviours are actually abusive and need to cease requires an awareness heightening strategy that carefully balances the risks of providing detailed examples of elder abuse with clear statements by leaders that such bigotry has to end.
A strategy for raising awareness of ageism and its consequences has been developed in Australia along with several reports on human rights and systematic abuse of older people's rights but translating this wisdom into outcomes for people is yet to occur. Widespread undermining of the rights and security of older adults is perpetrated by negative positioning arising from prejudice or competition for resources, and only if thought leaders act in a unified campaign will this situation be stopped. Governments, businesses and social leaders including the media are well positioned to lead the type of social change that has curtailed paedophilia and domestic violence in recent times. Ageism within families and societies is a clear target area for prevention of all types of abuse and improving personal security for all.
CITATION McDonald, T. (2017) Negative positioning of 'dementia' in a competitive resources environment (Invited keynote). ‘Reframing Dementia as Social and Cultural Experience’ University of Sydney 14-15 February 2017