Most of us prefer the relative comfort of denial when it comes to older age. This is a serious state for it is always better to anticipate and so prepare ourselves for ageing so we can unlock its rich potential. In the words of Antonio Pierro – Getting Older is an Adventure not a Problem. What might our churches look, like if we really acted from within that conviction?
MacKinlay has established herself as a leading advocate for older people and their pastoral needs. Her work is based in Australia where the health and social care provision is of a higher quality that the UK. In this book, she turns her attention to the some of the issues that surround frailer older people and the challenges of maintaining well being. The seventeen chapters take as their particular focus how ageing affects people who have mental and developmental disabilities.
Many of the writers are practitioners who express their aspiration to develop more effective and creative relationships between carers and older people. More people whose main focus is everyday engagement with age should be encouraged to write – the best essays here convey the wisdom that comes from this earthed experience. The spiritual dimension, both implicit and explicit, is examined as part of a commitment to compassionate engagement where there is much to learn from people who age.
Subject areas covered include reminiscence, depression, music therapy, art, ritual, humour, memory, community and other faith perspectives. There is an inevitable unevenness to the range of writing and a firmer editorial hand may have helped provide more guidance for the reader. The book has a comprehensive index and bibliography. Some of the references cited are not easily available and this should be considered when compiling such volumes.
It is impossible to give account for the sheer diversity of ways in which people age but we can learn about the pastoral challenges that face those who live in that strange land between remembering and forgetting. This book succeeds in challenging the reader to see dementia in a different framework where there is profound wisdom about personhood and our values. We need an approach to care that can celebrate personhood in all people and thereby build communities where spiritual well being is part of our vision. To do this we must deal with our denial and exclusion of age and older people. Dementia and its treatment show all the signs of being responded to as cancer was before the Hospice Movement enabled transformative practice. Will the Churches and its theological wisdom lead in responding or seek refuge in the shadow lands of denial?