From June 30th to July 1st, the EASPD conference „Old – So What? Independent Living for Seniors with Disabilities” took place in Linz, Austria. More than 170 participants discussed with experts from all around the world how an integrative society for everybody could become a reality.
Right at the start of the conference Dr. Max Rubisch, head of the department for Equality for Persons with Disabilities of the Austrian federal ministry, set the tone of the event. “Disabilities should not be seen as a problem or a stigma”, Rubisch insisted. “Instead, persons with disabilities should be considered to be an enrichment.”
The cooperation between EASPD (European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities) and Caritas for Persons with Disabilities Upper Austria made it possible to host the conference and enable an animate international exchange. A focus was to make the different situations in various European states visible, compare best-practice-examples and set agendas for the future. As the number of seniors with disabilities is rising, services have to be developed in the areas of professional care, medical support, but also simply in the area of support in everyday life. The aim is to enable persons with disabilities a high quality of living up until old age.
In workshops and seminars the participants identified problematic areas that have to be overcome. All agreed that the specialized service sector for persons with disabilities has to be linked with mainstream services for elderly people. In the living and housing sector, institutions have to move away from the traditional model of residential buildings towards a more innovative community-based living. Gerhart Hofer from the Kathi-Lampert-School explained the problem of residential buildings. “The paradigma of protecting hinders development”, Hofer emphasized. “Because of that, persons with disabilities are cut off from society.”
On a European level the participants found great potential in the transfer of know-how and the sharing of knowledge. At the moment, too little information is accessible on a European level and in easy-to-read language. In the future, this can be a cornerstone for developments in the field of seniors with disabilities.
Next to the subject-specific core themes another topic was tackled that was seen as significant for a higher quality in living for seniors with disabilities. Dirk Jarre from the European Federation of Older People (EURAG) advocated to critically look at contemporary values. “Values change as life changes”, he explained. “Our values are our legacy for those who are not born yet.”