If we are to grasp what ageing means for us at an individual level then we must also come to terms with the ways in which age is a social and cultural phenomenon. This is a complicated field full of experts and competing theories. In all dialogue there are myths and misinformation.
This is an area of growing interest. We are all living longer and there are an increasing number of older people. In the twentieth century human kind has gained thirty years in its lifespan. The question that results from this statistic is whether it is possible for us to live a healthy, vigorous and robust life as age takes shape within us. Economists will wonder whether we can afford the rising costs associated with this modern demographic challenge. Sociologists fear intergenerational conflict as children worry about how best to provide for older parents.
There is a saying in America that reflects some truth A Mother can raise five children but five children can’t look after one mother!
The biggest social and spiritual challenge of ageing is that of denial. But that need not be the case with you. Reflecting on and planning for old age is a key that can open many doors.
One of the discoveries of gerontologists is that many of our illnesses have their roots in earlier life. It is, in part, our genetic background that shapes our possibilities for health. Alas poor lifestyle also contributes to the quality of life. Becoming aware of our health status and the threats to our well being especially in mid life is a key part of accounting for our personal longevity.
We need to take responsibility for our own health and make any changes that are necessary to help us live long and well. There is no risk free life but living longer is partly in our own hands!
This all has important political and economic implications that should turn our accounting into campaigning! There is a need for leadership that can reshape our provision of services to older people. We are faced with issues around both funding and the quality and choice of provision. Social Care needs a radical overhaul and investment – many of the present facilities of housing and care would not suit us. We are failing to exercise our imaginations in providing for a context of community and care where we can reach our full potential as older people.
This certainly means that it will cost more and as advocates and campaigners we will have decisions to make about tax and spending as they relate to investment in older people and their needs. For example if we are to value older people then we must surely value those who participate in social care. It cannot be right for carers to be paid less than those who stack shelves in our supermarkets. Spending on the support, development and training of social care must match our huge investments in health and health care. We have an interest in this – these places that provide care and housing might well be our homes in due course.