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Being Older: Care When Needed

Being older does not mean being ill or needy all the time.  There will be times, however, when being older brings with it needs in health and social care which are different from those of younger people.  This is such a statement of the obvious that it sometimes gets forgotten in discussions about age and ageing.  The increase in the numbers of people living for much longer than, say, fifty years ago, has distorted attitudes towards being old, and especially towards the needs of those who are in their seventies or eighties.  Dementia in its various forms, physical frailty or lack of mobility, the ability to cope with common ailments are often presented as increasing and overwhelming problems for society, generating a sense of mild panic about what the future holds – not just for individuals but for society as a whole.  The phrase ‘demographic time-bomb’ is used graphically and inaccurately to paint a picture of an ageing population with an increasing number of people unable to look after themselves and placing a burden on everyone else, especially on the contents of their wallets and purses.  It is nonsense but widely believed.

Caring for the needs of older people who are no longer able to care for themselves is a sign of how well or how badly a society is committed to the pursuit of the common good.  The scandals which have emerged from enquiries about the treatment of older people in some hospitals and institutions in recent years illustrate deeper problems in society, problems which have nothing to do with being older but everything to do with being human.  Is there such a thing as society or are we just a bunch of individuals and families pursuing our individual goals and search for happiness and well-being?  The Christian response is that it is not possible to be properly human without being in solidarity with others, and this involves having a care for others whatever their needs and whatever their age.  How society does this, and arranges its resources to manage this, is the stuff of political debate and Christians are part of that debate.

Christians on Ageing is not in a position to offer political solutions but it is able to contribute to the debate.  There are four areas in particular on which we have a view:  dementia care,  residential care,  spiritual care,  and pastoral care.  Look in Timely Topics to find out more about our interest in dementia care or use the links on the right for the others.



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