We have reached a point in the development of our fight against the current virus that we can look towards the future. Whose future? Dare I suggest that we look towards a better future for older people as well as the rest of the population?

We are slowly improving how we treat the elderly, with arrangements such as home care, for example, being an alternative for older people who have difficulty managing physically in their own homes towards the end of their lives.

Most older people say that they prefer to die in their own homes but not everyone achieves this. It makes sense that in our final days or hours we want to stay in familiar surroundings, with familiar objects which have been part of our lives, often for decades. This includes family.

At present older people in aged care facilities are often restricted in the number of visitors allowed, sometimes none, often without any consultation with residents. In some cases this means that they die alone, a situation none of us would wish for on our last, unknown final journey. Were residents asked if they were prepared to take a greater risk of catching the virus or was the decision just thrust upon them? If they had had a choice to have visitors or not, at least the outcome would have been more bearable if it had been made democratically. For many older people life without visits from family and friends, particularly grandchildren, is a life not worth living. This lifestyle is not what they chose when they moved into an aged care facility.

Of course we also have to take into account the staff who are at risk, although not as much as vulnerable residents for whom it is more likely to be a life or death situation. Were they a part of the decision making?

Being well into the older age group myself, and having two medical problems which mean that death may not be that far away, and a Ph D with thesis titled “Successful ageing” I think I have a greater knowledge of old age than the ‘youngsters’ who make decisions about us! It horrifies me that our knowledge and decision making skills are regarded as non-existent as far as being old is concerned. Once our bodies start to be limited it seems to be assumed that our brains have gone the same way and we can no longer make decisions or be involved in life,  How rude, and how restricting.

Part of my anger is that I have been contacted by yet another organisation claiming to speak out for all age groups- but without an older person in sight! In another area, if restrictions on socialising are lifted, many conferences are planned for later in the year on ageing issues, again without the involvement of older people. Younger people can’t understand what ageing is like until they have walked a mile in our shoes.

My dream for the future is to have all aged care facilities a modest hive of demographic activity and involvement, both within and outside the facility, except for those residents who have lost the necessary mental capacity. There is no reason why all elderly people should be cast aside under the assumption that once the body deteriorate so does the mind. The assumption should be made that all older people still have a lot to offer, just as they did in their younger days. Let’s really value them. It would also make workplaces involving older people a proud environment in which to be involved and make employment there a privilege.