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. Read more about Elder abuse
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. Read more about Poverty in older age
Residential care is no longer a simple description of what happens to some older people when they can no longer care for themselves. It is a complex concept involving individuals, their carers, their families, their funders and their communities; it involves many different kinds of need and support services; and, not least because it frightens people. It frightens because it can cost a fortune of money. It frightens because there have been too many horror stories about mistreatment of residents in recent years. It frightens because it creates new relationships of dependence. And yet, it need not. It can and should be a time of new freedom, of liberation from worry, of security in health and, even, new and fruitful friendships. How these elements can be reconciled is the secret of the best of care. It can be done. There are many examples of care which brings joy to the residents and to their families. Christians on Ageing has begun the task of highlighting what to look for in choosing a care home and will publish further guidance, as well as a commentary on good and bad practice. Read more about Housing
Christians on Ageing would like to hear from members and others about their experience of residential care, in all its varieties: independent living, sheltered housing, nursing care, care for those with dementia, religious-based care, local authority-based care. The lot. You might live in residential care or you might know someone who does. Tell us what you know. Tell us what we should be considering.