Institutionalisation of old people in Czechia

Forum for human rights, Validity launch of report on institutionalisation of old people, September 2021. My remarks:


Massive institutionalisation of older people demonstrates the failure of policy when it comes to securing support and care.

It stems from lack of understanding how support and care should and can be provided.

And it is based on the extremely discriminatory reduction of older people to “subject of care”, “a burden”, a “problem to be solved and dealt with”.

And ultimately by some in the social care sector, to a commodity.


We hear it all the time – the dangers of ageing population.

The problems of care. The crises.


“Ageing population” and old people are portrayed as a threat to our societies.

Who will work for their pensions?

Who will pay for all the social care?



But: according to Eurostat, only 1 in 10 people over 75 years of age report dependence on care.

And most of that need is connected to household support, shopping etc. Much less with hygiene.

But still, old people get portrayed like a care-intensive monolith.


Have you ever heard anyone talk about old people support as enable of fulfilling live?


For more on that and how to reframe this discourse and the thinking around support, I would recommend to look at the work of Social Care Future initiative in the UK.



Another form of reductionism is pretending that it is only social care that matters.

But there are other elements, that have a crucial role:

  • accessibility, creating barrier-free environment, in which people with reduced mobility can move and live freely.

This includes adaptation to public spaces, and to people’s homes and flats.

A lot of institutionalisation is caused by the fact people would be left isolated in their homes because of barriers.


  • Support must  include measures to combat loneliness.

Over 40% of Czech women over 65 years of age live alone.

The figure is 19% for men.

Isolation and loneliness are another important reason why many people seek placement in institutions.


  • It is also important to mention here the business interests that have a strong hand in this reductive way of old people support.

Old people care is a huge business, with billions of euros involved.

And to see that this brings a lot of problematic issues, look into recent investigative series by Investigate Europe. Care providers pocketing profits, while residents – and staff – are left in very questionable conditions.


  • And one more aspect to mention is complete disregard for evidence in how care for older people is organised.

There are multiple studies proving institutional care is not only unsuitable, but also not economically viable in a lot of cases.

According to report covered in the Economist, 25-60 % of care provided in care homes in Denmark can be provided in persons home

In Canada, 40% of people could leave institutional care if provided with right support at home.



The report that is presented today is very timely and important.

Among other things, it draws attention to another element I have been highlighting in my previous speeches in Czechia:

Contrary to all strategies and declarations, access to home care services is actually decreasing.


That is a major failure of relevant public authorities, from ministry of labour, to regions and municipalities.


But you barely hear about it. The news – and what is worse, the policy discourse – is filled with completely nonsensical numbers about how many new beds are needed.



While some countries at least took note of the dramatic unsuitability of institutional care brutally exposed by covid, Czechia continues as if nothing happened.

“Death pits” and “death traps” are just some of the terms nursing homes were described with during the pandemic.

I’d challenge you to find similar reflections in Czech social policy discussions.



Of course, all these issues are underlined by a complete disregard to the human rights, needs and wishes of older people.

The policies basically function on the premise people stop being people once they reach certain age.


The report  presented today is therefore very important and timely.