I had just finished writing my blog about Quartet and went to hear Prof. Kirkwood lecture Enrich Your Future the ninth of the Staying Sharp series. Sponsored by Dana (The European Dana Alliance for the Brain) for an audience of U3A members.
It was the most informative, stimulating, lecture about ageing I have been to in the last two years of attending seminars, consultations, presentation of papers. From the cell to the social, Kirkwood gave an impressive picture of the current knowledge and research about ageing. He countered ageist assumptions without denying the need to ‘manage the end game’. He talked about the benefits to society of the ageing population but also of the challenges ahead. He stressed the importance of the need to have a knowledge base to improve care. He talked about the necessity of having innovative GP services to replace the nonsensical one symptom at a time rule.
Personally there were a few points that I appreciated specially and that were talked about in an informed and interesting question time when Kirkwood talked more personally. The importance of fighting but also accepting functional decline. He jokingly said that he would buy a mobility scooter and learn to use it before being disabled. Being realistic about ageing as the risk of dying increases with age and ‘managing the end game’. He also mentioned the findings of research about 85+ people . 75% assessed their quality of life as good.
The other issue was in response to a woman who expressed her fear of the care home if she becomes dependent. His response was that there are worse things that a care home. He talked about the premature isolation due to trivial things like incontinence etc… and declared that needs may be better served in good care homes. He talked about his mother. She was cared for at home but he felt that she may have been lonely.
My general impression is that although there is masses of research and knowledge about old age this knowledge is not reflected in our general culture and the issues are not discussed or talked about. We are given film pacifiers like The Exotic Marigold Hotel. Our own experience of ageing or caring for old relatives remains in the personal domain and the media is full alarmist headlines about the age bomb and the cost of care.