Dr Hans-Joachim von Kondratowitz, a lecturer and scientific officer at the German Centre of Gerontology, Berlin, and Dr Michael Wunder, Head of the Alsterdorf Advice Centre in Hamburg and a member of the German Ethics Council, gave an introduction to the practical situation of care of the elderly and the disabled in Germany and its future prospects. They drew attention to the challenges thereby presented to society.
Owing to demographic trends the number of old and disabled people in our society is constantly increasing. At the same time, the demands of many of those concerned are changing. Instead of going into an institution, they want to live and be cared for in homes of their own. Even so, the number of residents in both kinds of facilities is growing.
Society's view of old age and disability has admittedly changed significantly in recent years, with elderly and disabled people being regarded no longer as "inferior beings", but instead as active citizens with the same rights of participation as the young and able-bodied. As yet, however, this new conception often remains to be translated into practice. The availability of individual support and assistance in types of residential accommodation chosen by the persons concerned themselves is still far too limited.
The 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany acceded in 2007, declares that participation and equality are fundamental rights for all disabled persons. The future development of care of the elderly and the disabled in Germany, as in other countries, will have to be judged against the criteria of the Convention.
Dr Wunder suggested that the German Ethics Council should draw up recommendations based on the UN Convention regarding the future shape of care for the elderly and the disabled. The Council will consider what further action to take at its September meeting.