ACTIVE, HEALTHY, SUCCESSFUL AGEING ?

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/unequal-until-the-end/389910/

Browsing vaguely in the early morning, I came across this article. It is about the US but the article looks at ageing from a different angle than the proselytising  “successful ageing”, “active ageing”, “healthy ageing” well-intentioned, money wasting, programmes that so infuriate me.

I will quote only a few lines from the article but Abramson’s book (The End Game .How Inequality Shapes Our Final Years. Corey M. Abramson. Harvard University Press) may be useful to the people engaged in social policy, and fund-raising endeavours.

For the affluent, old age has its challenges. For the impoverished, it’s only harder.

Perhaps the presence of shared challenges in later life explains why we’ve glossed over inequality’s effects among the elderly …  

Social circumstances affect not only how long we live, but how healthy we are when we become seniors.

Some of the elderly I encountered in my study aged with immense wealth, social support, and education. Others did so in poverty and isolation. The wealthiest people in my study had aged in or retired to communities with voluminous senior programs, while many of the poor became increasingly isolated as they struggled with piecemeal social services.

The ideal of “successful aging,” emblazoned in the collective consciousness by glossy magazine pictures of smiling senior couples watching sunsets from a beach, is more attainable for some of us than others. The reality is old age is not the end of inequality, but its end game.

I often argue that the choice given to old people between retirement/care homes and ending their lives on their own in their own homes is a false one. The rich old Americans must know what is good for them… Campaigning for a ‘healthy’ life for the old must include the demand for funds to establish structures to facilitate social life for the frail, the disabled, the financially deprived…

 

 

 

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Live isolated in own home – this is what people say they want

Is it coincidence or what happened to a friend and a relative of mine more common than the general population imagines?

The two women, very different in all ways, over 80 both of them thought of themselves as coping living on their own. O loved her comfortable flat. Very independent she belonged to a few social groups, had many friends and family and at no time considered changing the situation. M on the other hand lives in badly managed sheltered accommodation after many moves, has no friends and only an elderly relative  as social contact.

O was found by a neighbour, unconscious. Nobody knew got to know how long she had been lying on her bed unable to contact anybody.  After a few weeks in hospital, she died. M was also found  nearly  unconscious and bruised on the floor where she had been lying for two days and nights.  The ambulance took over an hour to arrive and she was admitted to hospital. After 10 days as an inpatient she was declared medically fit and discharged with the promise of home care help as soon as she arrived home. She was still very confused, weak and unable to function. The relative was not informed of the situation, and not given any contact numbers.  The carers did not arrive that day, evening, or the next day. It transpired that she was discharged before a care plan was put in place by the council.

I am writing this because I felt strongly that the general policy of keeping old people in their own home as long as possible ,’that is what they wish’, may in the long run be more destructive and costly that establishing good care homes. I have written about this in previous posts (search in this blog ‘Enrich your future, and  Protecting our parents) . Our culture is an individualistic one. The isolation figures are worrying and lead to the above incidents. Yet excellent care homes cater for rich people. We need to think outside the box, read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, investigate OWCH. Ageing is a feminist issue and there is hope that the revival of feminist groups (london 70s sisters)   will yield similar projects.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/16/co-housing-people-things-common-live-together-older-people

FEAR OF ISOLATION

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/14/age-of-loneliness-killing-us?CMP=fb_gu#comment-42263329

It is creeping towards me. Stealthily, viciously, deadly. Since leaving the country of my youth where we lived in a big extended family I have always felt in danger of this threat but this was often allayed by the advantages of living free with no prying and judging eyes. My maternal Grandmother lived with us. She was part of the family but not quite. She mainly kept to her room being served her meals by a maid who was looking after her. My father could not bear the noise of her ill-fitting dentures at the table and she was only admitted at the table for the high holidays. She sat a the window all day long and observed the comings and goings of the tenants of this modern block of flats. She followed the dramas and comedies of a street always full of people and she used to run after me with a cardigan when she saw friends coming to pick me up to go out in the evening…

I often think of her now. I sit at my suburban kitchen window and observe the seasonal changes of the oak tree or the impassive leaves of the …. and I think yes it is about to get me.

It started a year after my retirement. I missed my colleagues dreadfully, the wonderful feeling of working in a team and knowing each other rather well. The daily contacts  and the feeling of the daily changes of my life being witnessed, the need to get on with people I did not like particularly.. In this gap year I achieved my dream of swimming on the Great Barrier Reef and observing the tropical natural wildlife I then settled in the anonymous London Suburb where I knew nobody in spite of having lived here for decades.   I joined different associations, The U3A, the antinuclear groups, the feminist groups and often went birdwatching on holiday. I read Betty Friedan but did not heed her advice of the time to change ones life as you grow older is soon after retirement. I was too busy campaigning and making new acquaintances but apart from a handful of very close friends who lived a long way away the quality of connection of the extended family or of my special working environment  was never achieved again.

In perfect synchrony the physical changes and the dreaded fear augment by the day. A meeting missed here a demonstration avoided there.   I have started to diminish my activities and opportunities for social contacts.

 

MILITANT FEMINIST OLD WOMEN AGAINST AGEISM

Five years ago I was invited to take part in a  cafe style consultation in preparation of the WOW Festival on the South Bank. Of course on my table I made a point of putting the necessity of having older women represented at the festival. None of the other much younger or middle aged women took any notice and my contribution did not make the table report to the whole gathering.  I suffered until the reports of the other tables. None mentioned old women. On my way out I approached one of the officials and put my point of view. I even made positive suggestions: a film show (in particular the company of strangers. A video installation about old women, a photo exhibition,, a talk about the role of old women in societies.  I do not think that the woman who listened to me with a patient tolerance heard me. The body language indicated that she would not even report my suggestions.

I have not attended any of the WOW festivals since then. I am so delighted to notice that some of the 70s sisters in the past week have commented on the ageism of the festival and intend to do something about it. Apart from some old women performers, the old woman has had no presence in the WOW.

I feel at last that there may be a militant old women feminist voice against ageism in the air…

Simone’s thoughts on ageing and disability

It is Josephine’s post that inspired me to write this. I am 79 and have been in retirement for 20 years. For the last twenty years I have gone through constant adaptations: to  the liberation from work, the loss of working in a team, the freedom of travelling where and when I liked, the new responsibilities of looking after my parents, their death, the involvement in political activities, the  new social networks, the role of an active grandmother, the children’s separations divorces or other crisis.

Now nearly 80 I am getting progressively deafer and my energies are declining. The two losses conspire to make me conscious of what I fear most of all about ageing : isolation. My children, grandchildren and step grandchild (child of my son’s partner by another father) live in other towns. I see them on holidays or during the rare visits they have time for. I have no friends who live locally.

I have always relied on public transport and distances did not affect my attendance at cultural and social events. Now I tend to avoid these not only because of the effort necessary to travel long distances but also because once there I do not follow most of what is being said on the platform or the noisy environment. Theatre going is out and English and American films are often hard work. The foreign ones with subtitles are the most comfortable.

I talk to old the old women who sit next to me on the bus. I am often told : “Well one has to get out doesn’t one”. “You cannot stay at home all day”.  “I like going to the shopping centre it is an outing isn’t it?”. Will I get to this stage?

I fear the creeping isolation. Will I be able to adapt to it?.

 

 

 

 

Nadia thoughts on ageing and disability

From the OFN Newsletter No 210 October-November 2014

Greetings everyone, old age ain’t kind as many of you know, but it comes to all of us if we are lucky enough to live that long. I count old age from 80. I’m now 83 and having had many falls and fractures, I find I can no longer do all the things I have been used to doing. My latest fall involved a fracture of a vertebrae ten weeks ago and I’ve been in a brace for eight weeks so far. I have been told I can start taking it off at the end of this month. Hurrah!! So how has it been? Frustration, anger, depression come to mind, and the question: why has this happened to me? I have gone from feeling down to being optimistic. It’s like being in a long tunnel but trying to keep in mind that there is light at the end that I am working towards. I am lucky to have my son nearby, and a wonderful cleaner who helps out and does the shopping. My friends all live far away so cannot visit often, but we keep in touch. I remain optimistic; it’s a long way back. I do exercises every day, sitting in the chair – arms legs neck ankles wrists. It is essential we keep our muscles working, especially in old age. Life is good. Miss you all.

Josephine thoughts on ageing and disability

First appeared in the Older Feminist Newsletter No 210 October-November 2014

1. Old age lasts a long time – I’ve been drawing the old age pension for 25 years!

2. It is a dynamic process, with physical fitness and abilities constantly changing and imposing the need to learn different behaviours. For instance, after slipping off a kerb and fracturing my pelvis while talking as I walked, I learned to watch my feet all the time. Similarly, after misjudging traffic speed while crossing the road after dark, I learned I could no longer run without falling over (and thoroughly frightening a poor driver!)

3. There is also a reduction of cognitive abilities. I can no longer count on completing crosswords.

4. There is no point mourning all this. I think of it as a survival tax.

OFN newsletter Subscription: £10 for six issues (every second month) or £6 concs. Overseas: £18 by cheque (in pounds sterling only) or Western Union. Recipient’s details for Western Union: Molly McConville, 60 Gibson Square, London N1 0RA