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The Congress of Ages and Ageing

At the Nursing Home of the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, in Saint Brieuc, France, where I have been a resident since 2004, I am involved with a group called "CITOYENNAGE"(citizenage), It is a group where the elderly express themselves and professionals listen. The group exists in our Nursing Home since 2013. At the beginning of this year 2018, during our meeting with other institutions, the director told us about the Congress of Ages and Ageing – "Changing our perception and acting on a daily basis", which occurred on September 6th and 7th in Paris, he asked for volunteers to attend the meeting: I then thought "Why not me ?" but not without apprehension! On Thursday September 6th I started my journey for this Congress along with another resident, Mrs Petit, a caregiver and a facilitator all from the Nursing Home of Gouarec (a city located in the center of Brittany).

What did we do during those two days ?

On September 6th, at 2.30pm we attended a plenary session devoted to testimonies of "Citizenage". From Brittany: Mrs Petit and I talked about the work done since 2013. From Burgundy, Franche-Comté: a video clip "The Grannies gone wild". And from Ile de France (Paris and the suburbs). At 16.30pm: Which inclusive society? From exclusion to inclusion. "An inclusive society is open to all, can adjust to singularity, to peculiarities of the person, by providing him with adapted answers. It allows each person to have access to all: the rights , the social goods, wherever they live and whatever their expectations, their needs, activities and their lifestyle choices…" (Caisse Nationale de Solidarité pour l'Autonomie 2018: National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy). Thursday evening, cruise on the Seine, from the Eiffel tower to the statue of Liberty: the illuminated monuments, the bridges under which we passed, the dinner with music and songs: enchanting moments, moments of happiness.

September 7th from 9 to 11am: Workshop "Promote the active involvement of the elderly in the city". Presentation of the different regional approaches. Sharing experiences (sketches)... From 11.30am to 1pm: plenary session: - the stakes and perspectives of the movement regarding the assistance towards the elderly "The social movement, the many official reports (National Assembly, Senate, the Social, Economic and Environmental Councils, the National Consultative Council of Ethics) have highlighted the deficiencies of the French model of assistance to the elderly. They also pointed out the conditions under which, in France, the elders are hardly considered and accompanied, the families and relatives are not well supported and the professionals are undervalued. It becomes imperative that the place of the elders in our society as well as the assistance they are offered be redefined and valued." - Listening to many participants including the Collective "Vieux Debout, Standing Elders". From 2.30pm to 4pm: Plenary session. Ageing and social cohesion. "Building a positive vision of ageing allows opening possibilities from both an individual and collective point of view." Marie de Hennezel, clinical psychologist and writer, emphasizes the importance of listening to older people, encouraging them to speak. She spoke of the issues of freedom, dignity, the elderly's personnal choice, the right to die in dignity, the right to eat or to refuse to, the respect of death whithin the institutions... She also insisted on the art of living well, serenity, the spirit of childhood… "Ageing well is accepting to take care of oneself."

During this Congress I felt a great deal of joyful moments, travelling on the TGV from Saint Brieuc to Paris, taking a taxi throughout the streets and the boulevards of Paris in the dizzying traffic! Going on a night cruise on the Seine, meeting people, a friend, to feel as thoughI was living a normal life, feeling protected, accompanied and the chance to get to know Marie de Hennezel ...

During the Congress I understood that I was a free person, that I must be respected and that I must respect others, that I must allow myself to seek and accept happiness in my daily life, that I can put forward my needs and expectations, that the establishements which welcome elderly people must be places of life, that the financial means and the necessary personnel in order to reach this ideal must be recognized and granted by the Government, we must not give up, we have to carry on talking and make our voices heard.

At all times, Mrs Petit and myself received very special attentions from the Director, our coordinating nurse and our governess of the Nursing Home of Saint Brieuc but also from the facilitator and the caregiver of the Nursing Home of Gouarec. For this we are very greatful to them.

Marie Armelle Labouere -with the flowery walker-! Published the 27th of September, 2018

Filles du Saint-Esprit 15 bd. Sebastopol 35101 Rennes Cedex 2 France

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