photo by Nikoline Arns on unsplash
As deconfinement measures are progressively being implemented in Belgium, grandparents are now allowed to look after their grandchildren again, but under strict conditions: grandmothers and grandparents must be younger than 65, in good health and reunions must take place within a limited chosen social ‘bubble’.
OKRA and the Vlaamse Ouderenraad firmly dismiss this arbitrary age limit of 65 years as unacceptable age discrimination.
In a statement, OKRA reminds that the image of 65+ passive resting seniors has been evolving over the years to be replaced by active dynamic 65plussers going out, enjoying life and contributing to society ‘at their own pace, with their own needs, but often with an overcrowded agenda”.
Although acknowledging the good intention behind those measures, OKRA insists that age in itself should never be a criterion to prohibit. “Just because you are 65 years old doesn’t mean you are suddenly a ‘vulnerable target group’!” states the organisation, adding that older people have the wisdom and the experience of life, and have been extremely careful since the beginning of the pandemic, behaving according to the measures decided by the authorities. “For over-65s are only too aware of the impact Covid has.” The basic criterion should be having no underlying disease, not a defined age.
Read OKRA statement (in Dutch)
This opinion is shared by the Vlaamse Ouderenraad (Flemish Older persons’ Council), referring to the non-discrimination legislation that requires such restrictive measures not only to have a legitimate purpose, but also to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘necessary’. The measure here clearly goes too far, as the organisation argues in a press release:
“It has not been sufficiently demonstrated that a grandparent of 65 years runs significantly more risk than a grandparent of 64 years. As a result, a large group of grandparents aged 65 and older are disproportionately disadvantaged. This while the same goal can also be achieved with guidelines that are more focused on older people with underlying health problems.”
The Vlaamse Ouderenraad also warns of a risk of “normalizing” age discrimination in our society. “What signal does this give, for example, to employers who employ people over 60? Why would you let someone continue working after the age of 65, if they are seemingly so vulnerable? Years of awareness-raising about age discrimination and work on nuanced perceptions of ageing are thus undone by our own policymakers.” concludes Nils Vandenweghe, director of the the Vlaamse Ouderenraad.
Read the Vlaamse Ouderenraad’s press release (in Dutch)