Waiting for the world elder abuse awareness day 2019, we will post everyday a story from real-life situations where the human rights of older people in Finland, Ireland, Italy and Romania were not respected. Their stories illustrate the challenges older people face in having their rights met.
Forced to Work in the Black Economy to Survive
Elena is 65 years old and has been married 40 years. She does not have children although it is something she would have loved. Elena is well educated and graduated as an industrial chemist. She remembers a time when she first began working saying people behaved “exceptionally” and treated each other fairly but “they cannot be compared to those people nowadays” For a period of time she was also the only woman employed in a male dominated workplace. Elena ran her own business for a while but unfortunately the business failed and as a result she now receives a very low pension.
After her retirement, Elena found it necessary to search for work to supplement her low pension. She eventually found part-time employment in an after-school facility and while she enjoyed working with the children, she soon began to feel the pressure of her new role. Elena’s work hours increased under demanding conditions and she soon began to feel exhausted. However, Elena felt trapped in a situation she could not leave. She was dependant on the extra income and she knew that if she complained or refused to work the extra hours, she would lose her job. She was also fearful that as an older person she would find it difficult to find another job. Elena says “a younger person could have afforded to say NO to her employer and searched for another job.” She believes that employers exploit the older person’s need for extra income, taking advantage of their willingness to work in the black economy with little protection. Although from the outside Elenas appears a brave and powerful woman, she does not feel capable of standing up for herself finding it “easier to fight for others than for myself. Elena recalls how she endured “so much humiliation, I had a hectic schedule” but she stresses “I had a bank loan, I needed money.”
Elena’s health began to suffer and the stress caused her to develop psoriasis, as she describes “my nails were falling off, my blood was spilling”. But this was only the beginning of her health issues; after 3 years, the stress and demands on Elena in her workplace finally took their toll and culminated in a heart attack. Describing the experience, Elena says that in the workplace, “I was hatched, matched and dispatched” and today life remains hard for her living on a small pension.
Elena’s story highlights infringements of these rights
ECHR Article 8 Right to respect for private and family life;
ECHR Article 14 Prohibition of discrimination in the enjoyment of Convention rights;
CRPD Article 28 Adequate standard of living and social protection.