Vera: “We want that people get to enjoy equal rights at all ages”

Vera, how nice that we could interview you. You’re all the way in Brussels and I am in Enschede, but we are both in the European project Pharaon. We’ll talk about what you do in Pharaon later. But may I first ask.. Who are you? How old are you? How old do you feel? Where are you from? Where do you live?

My name is Vera, I’m 36 years old, and feel like I have exactly the right age – for now. I’m originally from Austria but have lived in Brussels for over 10 years.

You work for an organization called AGE Platform Europe. What is this? Can you explain to our Plusbus participants?

AGE Platform Europe is a European organization that works for the rights of older people on the European level. For example, making sure that older workers are not discriminated because of their age, that older people have access to quality long-term care if needed, that public transportation is accessible to everyone etc. Basically, we want that people get to enjoy equal rights at all ages.

What do you like most about your work? Or… what achievement or project made you most proud the last couple of years?

I like working in projects because “working on the rights of older people” may sometimes be a bit abstract but in projects we can put that into practice. We try to ensure that older people are involved from the beginning of a project, that they are asked what they need and want, that they can participate in the research. We also do a lot of communication within and outside the project, highlighting that older people are a very diverse group – some may be in a vulnerable situation because they are not in good health, others may run marathons; some may have difficulties with a computer, others do their taxes and book holidays online.

As for a project that made me proud, the one that comes to mind is the one that looked at the importance of protein for older people. We developed guidelines on how to eat more protein and stay healthy and there was a lot of interest from older people, so it was very satisfying to see that the work we did, actually made a difference in people’s lives.

You often say that ageism and prejudices against old age are an important topic. Can you say more about this?

Ageism means that you are thinking, feeling and acting differently towards a person because of their age. You can also be ageist towards yourself for example if you think “Oh, I’m too old to still learn this”. It’s a very important topic because it extends to so many different areas: you’re considered “too old” to get a job, to live autonomously, to rent a car, to receive a medical treatment, to give your opinion. Ageism is associated with poorer physical and mental health, increased social isolation and loneliness, greater financial insecurity, decreased quality of life and premature death.[1] Because ageism has so many negative effects, it is important to combat it.

For Pharaon your organization makes sure that we communicate and create awareness. Do you do that in such a large consortium? (or… is there a tricky part?)

Pharaon is such a big project, that I am not always aware of everything that is happening 😀 So from the beginning, we formed a group of people from different countries that would work together to inform people about Pharaon. Like you’re doing a wonderful job with the newsletter for Dutch participants, there is also for example a newsletter in Italian. We meet once a month to talk about what everyone does in their countries and what we would like to do together.

Finally, we try to let everyone age happily and healthy. How do you take care of yourself?

I must confess that I’m not doing the greatest job at healthy living: I mostly eat healthily but I also love chocolate very much (I am eating a chocolate bar while answering this question…). My biggest hobby is travelling, and to explore new countries, I will walk many kilometres – so as long as there are still places to explore, I will be fine.