END OF YEAR – END OF LIFE

The end of the year and I need to take stock but there is so much to write about. Every time I get dispirited by the lack of traffic on this site compared to my film blog, a comment is posted from the other side of the world thanking me for it.

There is so much to write about and so few people around me interested in sharing my readings that I must carry on and today I will just signpost my readings as an aide memoir and give links to others interested in ageing.

Personal : a friend has moved from a small rehabilitation unit to sheltered accommodation. Unfortunately her care needs have been badly assessed and she is struggling to manage. This could be remedied by a different care package but members of her family are away for the holiday season and she is further away for her friends – old themselves to visit in this busy time.

http://bit.ly/EndLoneliness : A million people in the Uk haven’t spoken to anyone for a month. Nearly 400,000 people aged 65 or over are worried about being lonely this Christmas.

Our research also shows that there are 2.5 million older people who are not looking forward to Christmas with nearly 650,000 saying it’s because the festive season brings back too many memories of those who have passed away.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, said: ‘No one should feel lonely at any time of the year. The festive season is usually a time for celebration with loved ones and these figures come as a timely reminder of the scale of the issue.
‘People’s social networks often shrink due to life-changing events such as retirement and bereavement which can increase the risk of feeling lonely.
‘Voluntary sector services like Age UK’s have never been more important because funding cuts are forcing many of the local services that help older people stay connected, such as lunch clubs, to scale down or close.’
Find out how you can help us fight loneliness here:

Grandmothers:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/new-evidence-that-grandmothers-were-crucial-for-human-evolution-88972191/?no-ist

Care Homes and drugs: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/12/09/368539057/this-nursing-home-calms-troubling-behavior-without-risky-drugs?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=202609

Joan Bakewell: What a change of the perception of ones own ageing in 6 years. In my film blog’s post of April 2011 I wrote: I feel angry when Joan Bakewell (reported in The Voice of Older People publication, 2009) states “I don’t want to wear sensible skirts, I don’t want to look like an old frump. I mix with active people, so I don’t want to look like I have come from a pensioner’s meeting. My life is somewhere else, my skirts and dresses hover around the knee” . 

http://www.radiotimes.com/episode/c9tmsg/suppose-i-lose-it : In this broadcast Bakewell describes her problems with memory and talks about her friend’s (Prunella Scales) dementia.

Finally it is Atul Gowande in his Reith Lectures that is giving me hope about attitudes to dependent old people. In my previous post I wrote: What we need is creative thinking and a way to combat the false choice given to old people in need of care. The false choice between living alone at home or being neglected and abused in care homes.

A friend offered me his book Being Mortal. More than the lectures this book addresses the issues about end of life that us 80+ need to face. I feel that Gowande understands these and he clarifies for me what was nebulous in my thinking.

 

 

 

 

Do old women need role models?

The end of the year and into my 81st year. Time to take stock and reflect. There has been so much change around ageing issues since I started being interested in the representation of old women 20 years ago. At the time, 60+ was the age when women were considered old and the few academic papers published took this as the bench mark. I had to search hard to access information about ageing and attended seminars and conferences planned for social workers. I joined the Older Feminist Network, a campaigning organisation at the time, and Growing Old Disgracefully network. I started, with the support of the local authority, the U3A in the borough of Brent.

Now Ageing is being studied in all its aspects by Academia. There are dozens if not 100s of sites about ageing: from the International Longevity Centre to blogs written by individuals (I will include my own www.oldwomaninfeaturefilms.wordpress.com. )

Today I would like to reflect on three items in the news.

From ageuk website:  Each winter, 1 older person dies needlessly every 7 minutes from the cold – that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented… Age UK estimates that 1.7 million older people in the UK can’t afford to heat their homes, and over a third (36%) of older people in the UK say they live mainly in one room to save money.

From the Guardian Comment is free 26th November 2014:   On Tuesday he (the Pope) addressed the European parliament in Strasbourg. Speaking of the need for Europe to be invigorated, he described the continent as a “grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant”, and went on to say it risked “slowly losing its own soul”…

The Independent Dec 2nd: Mary  Beard calls for a grey revolution: ‘Let’s reclaim the word old’. Speaking at Cheltenham Literary Festival, the classicist said reaching old age should be a source of pride and suggested Agatha Christie’s character Miss Marple as role model.

To me these three news items encapsulate what I find disturbing in the climate of denial that surrounds old age. The age uk information about the plight of old people who have no other voice is reported in the press on one day and disappears from view the next. As with the abuse in care homes, the extreme isolation of some old people that leads to mental decline, the social problems of old people do not feature in high visibility campaigns.  As mentioned in my previous blog, and argued by Jay Ginn, old frail people have no public voice. We do not want to know about the end game (Prof. Kirkwood’s term for the end of life). Old frail, disabled old people, are ‘other’.  We prefer to identify with the ‘still doing it’ campaigns: the positive living, growing old healthy, independent age, age and   culture, growing bolder and the myriad of other sites. But as shown by the 77 years old Pope sexism sticks closely to ageism. Ageing is a feminist issue but  in the feminist communities old women are hardly visible. The OFN (Older Feminist Network) and the OLN (Older Lesbian Network) have now been joined by another network (7 sisters network). They are networks of friends who get together for sharing experiences, hidden from view. I am not aware of any old  women groups who are campaigning for the rights of  the frail, abused and lonely. The only two workshops about ageism at the Feminism In London Conference did not consider the Crisis in Care.

This leads me to Mary Beard’s proposing Miss Marple as a role model.  Do  we old women need ‘role models’? I do not think so. What we need is high-profile people who would advertise the contribution that we make to society. Our diverse roles: volunteers in the Health Service and hospices, philosophers, music teachers, workers, painters and singers, peace campaigners, grandmothers, great grandmothers and many more .  At any meetings, demonstrations against war, against violence, against the savage cuts we are there white hair and all. We  are often the foundations of community groups, religious associations. The research produced  about our ageing society by the universities is often inaccessible and does not permeate the general public’s consciousness.  What we need is for feminist writers to explore and close the gap between the  60+ healthy old and the old who face the end game.  What we need is for the young old to fight for the old who are unable to make themselves heard. For the old who die alone because of the cold weather. What we need is creative thinking and a way to combat the false choice given to old people in need of care. The false choice between living alone at home or being neglected and abused in care homes.