Who is old exactly?

There is a tendency to consider older people and ageing processes as something outside and beyond ourselves. Ageing happens to someone else – your mum, your day, your grandparents.

This warped thinking has consequences – it leaves us unable to actively engage with important decisions about how we treat each other now and with how we might want to be treated in the future.  So when programs like the recent Panorama report on one woman’s experience in a care home come  along we are shocked and outraged but find it difficult to move beyond  voyeurism to intelligent discussions #ukcare.

However there are intelligent discussions and suggestions out there. I like  Benedict’s Dellot’s suggestion that we look at prevention of abuse  – he mentions “the interrupters” who prevent violence from escalating on Chicagos ‘s roughest estates -they dare to take a close look at what others chose to disengage from and have given up on.

It is this taking a close look and engagement with the difficult that creates change. I worked on a project with care home manager seeking to improve and develop practice in care homes. One phrase stays with me – “leaps of  imagination”. A manager described how he and his team  had begun to meet regularly to reflect on the difficult. The difficult is living with the chaotic behaviours of people with dementia or the pressure of being with  a lot of people with dementia over what can be a very pressurised shift.  Finding time to consider the difficult is the first challenge. Once you have found the time, you and your team then face the next challenge of staying with the difficult questions and emotions  long enough to begin to formulate a different and imaginative response. Taking the leap of imagination may lead to a temporary solution which may make all the difference to a person with dementia in a particular moment.  The challenge is to keep responding to the person in the moment and not to procedures fixed in manuals for the benefit of organisations.  People with dementia interrupt our scheduled tidy lives all the time -and that is difficult not least because we are reminded of our own ageing process and the unpredictability of life.


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