Posts Tagged ‘Age discrimination’

Sweden’s welfare society is often heartless to the elderly

December 4, 2015

Sweden has a well developed welfare state and longevity is high. But, I sometimes feel, those of the elderly who do not have private means, can expect to be hidden away from the general view and encouraged to fade away.

Age discrimination is endemic. The country has a youth fixation and this leads to a deep-seated and widespread discrimination against the elderly. Generally, once a person is labelled a “pensioner” at 65, the journey to being a non-person begins. Only those with private means have some chance of escaping the solitude and invisibility forced upon them. The elderly are grossly under-represented in parliament. The population over 65 is about 26% but the number of members of parliament over 65 is just 2.6%.  Instead of utilising the wealth of experience and knowledge available, parliament has more than its fair share of incompetent youngsters. (This is in spite of the critical faculties of the brain not being fully developed till about the age of 25). It is more expensive for employers to hire seniors even under this red/green government, for who “self-employment” is a dirty word. The prejudices against the elderly show up even in the health and welfare services. The services for the elderly have become dominated by the cost to fulfil the law and are not really concerned with any other measure of quality. Elderly people are often subject to a form of unconscious triage and receive inferior health care. The laws are ostensibly very friendly to the elderly but are administered often by very indifferent (if not unfriendly) people. It is generally assumed that the law – which should be a minimum requirement- is actually a sufficient assurance of quality. The “friendliness” of the laws and the assumed quality they “assure” is used to assuage the conscience of society as the elderly are hidden away in homes and encouraged to fade away with as little fuss as possible.

Every so often a case gets attention which demonstrates the impersonal and “heartless” nature of the welfare services for the old who do not have private means.

ExpressenSiv and Nils Sundén, 72 and 86, have lived together for over 40 years. But now Stockholm City is forcing them to stay in different homes for the elderly – even though it is against the law. “We do not have many years left so it is important to be together”, says Nils Sundén. 

A couple who have long lived together have the right to continue living together, even if they have different care needs. This law, of the right to cohabitation, has been in force since November 1, 2012. However few make use of it. …..

“We’ve been married for over thirty years. When we first moved from our villa, we came to a retirement home in Blackeberg. I lived in a group home and Siv got an apartment in the same house”, says Nils Sundén.
But the nursing home had shortcomings and the married couple were forced to move to two different homes for the elderly in early 2013. In May, the couple asked about getting to stay together, but this was rejected by the Assistance Unit within the City of Stockholm, which decided  on the matter. Siv and Nils Sundén were denied the opportunity to live together and the official wrote, 
“Joint living is not deemed to be appropriate in the nursing and care homes with dementia orientation unless both spouses have need of such accommodation.” …..

Dick Lindberg is an investigator at the National Social Services Board. He has been commissioned by the government to guide municipalities on how to apply the new law on cohabitation. He has followed the work of the law and written inquiries on the issue since 2012. He was very surprised that Nils and Siv Sundén had been refused the chance to stay together. “It sounds a bit strange. The whole point (of the law) is that it applies to spouses with different care needs. Even if one of the pair is completely healthy they should be able to stay together anyway. Moreover, there is no exception for people with dementia”, said Dick Lindberg.

The couple were first denied the chance to stay together because he lived in a dementia home. Which he does not. Then they were denied on the grounds of the health needs of one of them, which is not valid as a reason for denying that the couple live together. …..

And so it begins! UK writes off its over 75s

April 27, 2015

National health services all over Europe are facing an increase of costs as longevity increases. It is only a matter of time before state health services encourage those considered “too old” to expedite their exit from life and save them from the costly obligations of providing care. The first stage is when some medical services are denied for those considered too old and these initial indicators are already visible. Expensive treatments will be the first to go. I have already posted about prostate cancer treatment being denied to those considered too old (over 70) in some parts of Sweden. Physicians already discourage elderly patients – perhaps unconsciously – from expensive or long treatment as a matter of routine.

And now I read that patients over 75 are going to be encouraged by the UK NHS to start planning their exits. Private health insurance premiums for the elderly are already on the rise. Perhaps the over 75s will be uninsurable soon. Ostensibly it is just to get them to sign a “non-resuscitation” declaration – but it is the start. Next they will be asked to choose their preferred method of assisted dying. The sad part is that this is no longer about providing care or about dying with some semblance of dignity. It is all about saving cost.

And if you ever read about an over 75 who was not resuscitated after suffering complications from an ingrowing toe-nail, you can at least be sure that a great deal of money was saved.

Daily Mail:

Doctors are being told to ask all patients over 75 if they will agree to a ‘do not resuscitate’ order. New NHS guidelines urge GPs to draw up end-of-life plans for over-75s, as well as younger patients suffering from cancer, dementia, heart disease or serious lung conditions.

They are also being told to ask whether the patient wants doctors to try to resuscitate them if their health suddenly deteriorates.

The NHS says the guidance will improve patients’ end-of-life care, but medical professionals say it is ‘blatantly wrong’ and will frighten the elderly into thinking they are being ‘written off’.

In some surgeries, nurses are cold-calling patients over 75 or with long-term conditions and asking them over the phone if they have ‘thought about resuscitation’. 

Non-resuscitation is the new euphemism for assisted death. And it is also only a little further along this road before the assisted death is not even a voluntary choice but is mandated for all who are past a certain age and have the misfortune to be hospitalised. A mandatory death age to follow a mandatory retirement age. Maybe those past the mandatory age of death will not be actively terminated in their own homes but woe betide them if they are ever hospitalised.

Swedish health care provides inferior treatment of prostate cancer to elderly men

April 21, 2015

The Swedish health care system is often cited as an example. And in general that is probably justified. But there is little doubt that care is denied when the physician – for whatever reason – believes it is not worthwhile. The patient’s life expectancy plays a key part in this judgement. And that automatically leads to the elderly being denied treatment in some cases. After all, the common good requires that resources not be wasted! Perhaps it would be best to simply withhold all care for people over 70 – or should we say 75?

The Swedish health system does provide inferior treatment to men with prostate cancer if they are over 70 years old. A report from Lund University exposes yet another example of the age discrimination that is endemic in Sweden. And as the country ages, we can expect such denial of care to increase.

Until the over 70s start to exercise their political power.


Many older men are not getting the cancer treatment they need. New Swedish research shows that men between 70 and 80 years are often under-treated despite having a high risk of prostate cancer. According to the national guidelines men should  have surgery or radiation treatment, but many are denied access to these treatments. The doctors believe that patients are too old, says Associate Professor Ola Bratt at Lund University in the research report that was presented at an international urology meeting in Madrid.

Prof. Ola Bratt has examined all the 19 000 men especially at risk and treated for prostate cancer  in Sweden between 2001 and 2012. He notes that doctors often misjudged the patient’s expected lifetime. The doctors have simply ignored vital treatment because they mistakenly believed that the patients would die soon.

“Such an old-fashioned and rather jaundiced view of today’s 70 year olds can have devastating consequences. It can not be the intention that Swedish men should die prematurely”.

Ola Bratt notes that there are large differences between different parts of Sweden. Between 2001 and 2012, the proportion of men over 70 years who received curative treatment was 15-38 percent, but the proportion varies greatly between counties – from 13 percent in Örebro County to 85 percent in Kronoberg County, according to the National Prostate Cancer Register. Many men are thus losers in the great cancer lottery. Those who want to survive, should stay in the right county and go to the right doctor.

There is a shortage of urologists and many of them are available in small clinics that may not keep up with the latest developments. Choice of care has also contributed to more private clinics taking responsibility for severe disease and the patient is then challenged to find the right treatment in a jungle of offers.

Age discrimination to be tested in Swedish court

March 16, 2015

Age discrimination is endemic in Sweden – that is discrimination on the basis of just age and not because of some attribute or lack of competence. Though it is illegal it is an everyday occurrence. To be labelled a “pensioner” in Sweden is often as an excuse for exclusion and a not so subtle form of insult.

The elderly are noticeably absent in parliament where they are grossly underrepresented. This is, in part, due to the fact that all the political parties are inherently prejudiced against age and have an obsession about youth. It shows up with the party leaders and their entourages as well, where youth – and being seen to be young – is of primary importance. Incompetence and inexperience are tolerated (even encouraged) to satisfy the youth fetish. Competence and experience do not balance the perceived disadvantages of age. The theory being, I suppose, that this attracts young, first time voters. I perceive the incidences of incompetence in government and in political life as increasing. I would go so far as to say that there has been a “dumbing-down” of politics. The proportion of the elderly among the electorate is growing sharply. But so far their electoral strength has not manifested itself in politics or in parliament.

A public transport company, Keolis, has introduced a blanket rule forbidding those over 70 years old from being bus or taxi drivers. This is a ban based entirely on age and not on competence. The Discrimination Ombudsman is taking this to court to see if such a blanket age-based ban is legal.

Swedish radioThe Discrimination Ombudsman has taken the position that the public transport company Keolis is discriminating illegally against the elderly with their ban on people aged 70 or over from driving buses and taxis. For the first time, such a general upper age limit will now be tested in the Labour Court.

Marie Nordström who is handling the case within the office of the Discrimination Ombudsman hopes that this will send a clear signal to employers. “We must become aware of that age itself actually constitutes grounds for discrimination, and that we should not discriminate against older people in employment. We must make effective use of older people’s knowledge and experience to a greater extent than we do today”.

…… Cecilia Jerneheim, Human Resources Manager at Keolis, says that the age limit is not about discrimination, but about road safety. “It is known that with increasing age, hearing, vision and response time are impaired and therefore we have chosen the age of 70. We need to put a limit somewhere and we have chosen 70” says Cecilia Jerneheim.

But whatever the labour court says the attitude of general condescension towards, and the political exclusion of, the elderly will continue in Swedish society for some time yet.

Swedish appeals court supports municipality in the degradation of the aged

February 26, 2015

“It is not the pain of death that frightens as much as the degradations of growing old”.

As we live longer, it seems, we also have a longer period of being useless in the eyes of surrounding society. People with diminished capabilities are provided Home Care help in Sweden. This applies also to the elderly until – say with dementia or Alzheimers – they have to be placed (hidden away) in “care” homes where their capabilities gradually deteriorate. The treatment meted out to them also deteriorates and, as we see in so many cases, the lack of care becomes institutionalised. In some cases the lack of care becomes intentional mistreatment. As the elderly become useless to society, society shows them that they are useless.

In Sweden the increase in longevity and the expenditure incurred by the welfare state leads to the care of the elderly becoming primarily a cost issue. The level of care is no longer about quality, let alone excellence, but instead of the minimum to be “acceptably” provided. Though the elderly are an increasing number of the population, politically they are grossly underrepresented in parliament. Age discrimination may be illegal but it is endemic. Privatised care givers and homes have the municipalities as their clients and paymasters. The municipalities just want to do the minimum necessary to stay within their budgets and comply with their legal obligations. So in both privatised and municipal run homes, there is an incentive to reduce costs – and the quality of care – to a minimum. And the municipalities are now using the Courts – where the elderly are hardly represented – to establish the minima they can get away with. The quality of life of the elderly is not really of concern to the municipalities. Their only concern is a minimum compliance with the law.

This is a case reported in Hallands Posten, and it shows the insidious way in which a municipality uses the courts to establish a minimum level of care – in this case how often a person needs to shower during the provision of Home Care. But what has also been established by this unfortunate judgement is that the Social Services Act does not include the “well-being” of the elderly  as being part of a “reasonable standard of living”. Clearly no care giver or care home need now help any of their charges to shower more than 3 times a week!

I wonder how many of the judges on the Appeal bench or how many members of the Home Care Board consider 3 showers a week reasonable for themselves. But of course, they are not elderly.

Hallands Posten:

An 82-year-old man who has fought to be able to shower every day lost his fight against the municipality. The Appeal Court accepted the view of the Home Care Board that three showers a week is enough.

The man has dementia and does not always manage to get to the toilet in time. He also suffers from oily skin and greasy hair and wants to feel clean and fresh every day. But the Home Care Board found that three showers a week was enough. The man appealed to the Administrative Court – which found in his favour.  The Court ruled that the 82-year-old had a quite extensive need for help and to have a shower every day was a reasonable requirement.

But the Home Care Board refused to accept that judgement and argued that it was based on a judgement of well-being. They claimed that the  Social Services Act says nothing about a daily shower to be included in a “reasonable standard of living”.

I would go so far as to say that the Courts are part of the institutionalised discrimination against, and for the degradation of, the elderly. However, they only interpret laws made by parliaments where the elderly are under-represented. But I have a measure of contempt for the Halmstad municipality which has not the courage to take a call on what is right, and instead has used the Courts to come to a minimum liability. And the well-being of their elderly citizens is clearly not of any importance.


New red/green Swedish government attacks the elderly who would dare to work

October 12, 2014

Traditional socialists it seems would prefer that the elderly not work for longer. They should should leave the work-place, sit-out their days in an old-age home and die out quietly without making too much fuss. “Self-employed” has always been a dirty word in the socialist lexicon and the new Swedish government is training its sights especially on the elderly self-employed.

As it is, the age discrimination that is endemic in Sweden makes it virtually impossible for the elderly (>65 years old) to get employment. About the only real possibility for the elderly to work is to employ themselves and to be self-employed. The new government in Sweden wants to make it even harder for the elderly to be employed (by others) and to milk them for extra taxes when they do. The special payroll tax is to be increased by 8.5%. Employers must pay the extra and if the elderly are self-employed then they will have to pay the extra themselves. When the discrimination is built into the tax code then it must count as institutionalised age-discrimination.

It seems such a waste of experience and knowledge. The evidence shows, and common sense says, that it is not the elderly who take jobs away from the young. The elderly – when they are employed – are usually employed for the depth of their experience which is not an area of competition with the young. The previous government had managed to increase the employment of the over-65s by 1.5 percentage points. But the new government clearly wants to change that.

Of course the key point is that when over-65s lose their jobs, they do not – statistically – swell the ranks of the unemployed. And the new socialist government wants to milk whatever taxes it can from the elderly – especially if they are self-employed.

But in the long term the demographics dictate that with increasing longevity, society will have to encourage that people remain gainfully employed – on average – much beyond the age of 65. By 2050, this will need to be at least 70 years. The left will have to lose their antipathy for the elderly.

From Swedish Radio:

The red-green government is making it more expensive to hire seniors. From next year, the fee paid by employers for workers over 65 will be raised. Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson says that the government needs the money.

The government wants to increase national revenues by 18 billion kronor next year. More than two billion will come from the increase in the fee paid by the employer to employ people over 65 years, the so-called special payroll tax. 

It thus becomes more expensive for firms to hire the over-65s from 1st January 2015.

The previous Alliance government had lowered the special payroll tax in 2007, and given the over-65s higher earned income tax credit. This resulted in more over-65s working according to a study by the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation, IFAU.

“These reforms led to an increase in employment by 1.5 percentage points”. says researcher Lisa Laun at IFAU. The study could not determine what impacedt employment most; the lower payroll tax or the higher tax credit. But both reforms together gave more jobs for the over-65s.

Lars Calmfors is a Swedish economist and Professor of international economics at the Institute for International Economic Studies at Stockholm University. He spoke to Swedish TV:

“It does not seem wise, if one wants to get older people to stay and work. We know that we have large departures in many professions, not least in health care and the teaching profession. One is keen to keep people at work here so the measure is probably ill advised”.  So said Professor Lars Calmfors  after the government proposed that the payroll tax for the elderly over 65 years will increase by 8.5 percent from the year-end. It is a tax paid by the employer for each employee. The self-employed must pay the tax themselves. 

Lars Calmfors sees two reasons why the payroll tax is now being raised for the elderly; first that the government needs more tax revenue, and second, that the government might think that fewer older people will take away jobs from the young – something that is not at all supported by research. 

“There’s very little support for the theory that higher employment of the elderly leads to lower employment among young people. Most indications are that in countries that have high levels of employment for the elderly there are also high levels of employment for young people. They don’t seem to compete against each other” said Lars Calmfors to SVT.

An unrepresentative Swedish parliament

October 3, 2014

There is a 90% under-representation of the over-65s in the Swedish parliament.

The older I get the more I seem to encounter “age discrimination”. I have the perception that wisdom, knowledge and experience – but not wealth – are given a diminishing value by society. But it is not just perception. The numbers don’t lie. But the numbers also suggest that the elderly themselves contribute to this perception by giving less value to their own hard-earned qualities.

The new Swedish Parliament has just convened and a new socialist/green government (a minority government) is being formed. The media touted that this was the youngest ever Swedish Parliament and possibly one of the youngest in the world – as if it was a good thing. Perhaps it is – though I doubt it. I found the election debates degenerated often into childish squabbles. Wisdom, knowledge and experience were conspicuous by their absence from many of the candidates.

Riksdag 2014

Riksdag 2014

The Numbers (from SCB and the Election Commission):

  1. The total population of Sweden is currently (31st July 2014) 9.7 million and 19.2% (1.9 million) are over 65 years old. By 2060 the population is expected to be 11.6 million with 25.3% (2.9 million) over 65 years old.
  2. Of the 7.33 million eligible to vote, 25.6% (1.87 million) were over 65.
  3. Of the 5,901 candidates, only 13.5% were over 65 (a 53% representation).
  4. Of the major parties only the Folk Party and the Centre Party had a representation of the over-65’s among their candidates which was higher than 75%.
  5. Of the 349 elected to parliament only 2.6% were over 65 (a 10% representation)
  6. Women (86% representation) are slightly underrepresented.
  7. Under 30’s ( 56% representation) are underrepresented.
  8. Over 65s are grossly underrepresented (10% representation)

“Age discrimination” is endemic in Sweden. To be labelled a “pensioner” in Sweden has the “kiss of death” about it. This is no doubt partly due to the elderly’s perception of themselves and their disinclination to be strident. Under-representation cannot be solved by quotas since quotas are fundamentally unjust and discriminatory in nature.. The skewed representation can only be addressed by greater participation of the over-65s through the entire chain.

But a 10% representation in Parliament is untenable. Perhaps the over-65s need to take to the streets.



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