Archives for category: Ageing

As I get older, looking ahead at a New Year takes on a greater significance than it did when I was younger. There is always the question of how many more ‘New Years’ have I left and will I still be as fit and healthy this time next year?

At this stage 2016 looks really promising for me. I have already been accepted to present papers on my research at 2 conferences, both in Australia although one is an international one which just happens to be here this year. I love to visit overseas countries but it is much easier to stay in my own country where I understand the customs and currency, among other things. The first conference is a regional one, combining researchers into ageing and those who work in the field, particularly the nurses. It is always interesting to hear the point of view of the latter. These people are the real experts in the care of older people but they rarely have their voices heard. The second conference will bring experts in ageing from all around the world, with their many different experiences, and their many similarities!

I have just checked the stats for my blog and this year it has been accessed by people from 62 different countries, with Brazil at the head of the list. An ageing population really is an international phenomena. To me it is good that we get together and share our problems, and solutions when we find them. My complaint as usual is that there are very few older people at these conferences, yet we are the real experts in the field.

Next year I also want to work a bit harder at getting the book I wrote about my research published. I don’t think I realised how competitive getting published is. In my research into the topic I found that apparently the biggest rival to the major publishing houses is Amazon so that is somewhere else I need to look into.

The last, and to me the most important, happening for next year is that I have found a nearby residential care village for the elderly  which has agreed to let me join them and do more research there. Both emails I have had from them have included the word ‘excited’ which makes it even better. My previous research was restricted to older people living in the community as that was the only area in which there was reliable and appropriate data so this is a wonderful opportunity to expand it by looking at ‘on the job’ data in aged care. As people get older we have 2 concerns, one is how we will live our lives once we give up work and secondly how and where will we live when we can no longer physically look after ourselves and have to rely on others. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to look into this second aspect of ageing.

I am obviously looking at 2016 with a great deal of excitement. I hope yours promises to be as good, no matter what age you are. We can’t all be lucky enough to be 78!

Unfortunately we live in a world in which, unless we can put a monetary value on something we tend not to value it. Our valuations are all done in terms of price and cost. We value objects that have a high price on them and people who are described as ‘wealthy’. We describe the latter as having ‘made money’ whereas unfortunately their skill is to collect it off other people.

I was reminded of this the other day when I attended a presentation on a new ‘hospital’ which is soon to be opened in this area. For many of us it is not a proper hospital as it doesn’t have either an emergency department or facilities to do operations. What they are building is not what most people regard as a hospital but in describing it as such the government can claim to have built another ‘hospital’. Elections next year!

At the meeting I raised the question about preventative medicine. This was dismissed as trivial. If you ask people what the major medical discovery was last century nobody will suggest preventative medicine, yet this was really a big step forward. Because it wasn’t the result of major research and huge amounts of money we ignore it yet this was the only medical breakthrough achieved which affects everyone and can improve lives and health.

The three major problems facing developed countries today are obesity, diabetes and unhealthy ageing. Yet this brand new medical facility, which is priding itself on having state-of-the-art procedures, completely ignores these three issues. How much money we could save, and how much healthier and happier people would be, if we put resources into enabling people either to prevent these chronic diseases from occurring, or, if we can’t do that, at least reduce the impact of them.

What adds insult to injury for me is that the people who present talks on new health developments are often overweight and under fit themselves and don’t even seem to realise that they have a problem.

I’m told that Bhutan doesn’t have a measure of gross domestic product, putting everything in monetary terms, but rather measures gross domestic happiness instead. How sensible.

 

As we get older this is a topic which we often think about. We plan as best we can for other parts of our lives, such as where we intend to live as we get older, and what we plan to do with what is left of our lives and, although these plans have to be fairly flexible as we can’t be sure about our state of health, we can still make broad plans. Death, on the other hand, is a complete unknown for most of us. Not only will it one day visit us but it will visit our friends and relatives as well and importantly, none of us usually know when.

These thoughts have been sparked by being told yesterday that my oldest friend, part of my longest friendship, had passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected as she was in her nineties but the question of ‘when?’ was never clear. We now live in different cities so most of our contact had to be by email but even with this we were restricted as she often didn’t have the energy to write them or even read them. Much of the time we knew each other so well we didn’t need to communicate much towards the end except for main events such as news of grandchildren and their successes.

Even though her death wasn’t entirely unexpected it was still sad to know that she is no longer there. How do I think she herself felt? Her last days, in medical terms, was fairly short although the deterioration which preceded it lasted for many years. Each time I visited her I noticed that she could do less and less and everything became an effort for her. Fortunately she had a helper which made my visits less of a burden and more of a pleasure for both of us but even so seeing her slowly become less able was hurtful as I remembered all the good times, and silly times, we had had in the past. The last time I visited her, a few months ago, saying goodbye was particularly difficult as I think we both felt that it was likely to be our last. It was like a shared, and sad, understanding between us.

So how do I think she felt when the end came. Fortunately she had someone with her who could help her to let go but I suspect that she was quite relieved to let go of a body which had started to put such a strain on her and restricted her life.

It’s sad to think that in spite of mankind having largely tamed this world for our requirements, and with plans underfoot to travel to one of the other planets, we still have no real, physical, tangible proof of what happens to us when we leave this life. Is that the end or do we go on to another life somewhere? Maybe it is part of the challenge of this life that we have to wait to find out.

Meanwhile may my friend of so many decades enjoy being free of the restrictions her body was putting on her and may her spirit be free to soar as it did when we were both young.

There is so much bad news across the world at present. The Islamic war continues which seems to affect so many different people, both in the areas where they have taken over and in other countries where their rule doesn’t exist. Now we have the added devastation in Nepal, a country which is never regarded as wealthy at the best of times. This can only increase the poverty. In the midst of all this it is the very young and older people who suffer the most because both groups lack the physical strength and capabilities to cope with the situation.

When I first heard about the grannies in Canada connecting with their counterparts in Africa who have to struggle to bring up their grandchildren after their parents die of AIDS, I hoped that this was to be the start of something bigger. This connection is not just fundraising but also the one-to-one contact, and friendships, between the two groups of grandparents. I eagerly joined, only to find that it wasn’t an idea that was spreading but an extension of the fund-raising part of their work. The personal contact didn’t exist beyond the original members.

When my children were little we subscribed to an organisation which raised money for children in poor countries. We were allocated to a family, I think in India, with a child the same age as my son. I wanted my children to know that not all children were as lucky as they were. We enjoyed getting the monthly letters from the child, written with the help of a worker with the family. The agency’s policy was use part of our donation to help the rest of the village to reduce any jealousy there may have been. In this case I think they set up a silk worm farm to provide an income for all the villagers.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could set up something similar to connect older people across the world, including sharing our stories and hopes and dreams for our families. It would be good if the small start in Africa mentioned above could spread to more countries. The trouble is that doing something like that has more appeal if children are involved, with their futures ahead of them.

The incentive would have to come from us but where could we start? If we could manage it we would really prove our worth and finally put all the negative comments about us to rest. I don’t think it has been done before apart from the small group mentioned above. It wouldn’t just be donations but the very important personal contact between us too. We would probably need help from one of the charity’s to start with but there is no reason why we shouldn’t run it ourselves after the initial start. Any suggestions?

I have just come back from a conference on the coast on aged care and feel so refreshed. I hadn’t realised until I got home just how bogged down I had been in everyday life.

I deliberately chose a motel to stay in which was in walking distance of both the conference venue and the shops, yet was on the riverfront. I was able to park my car and walk everywhere. When I went out it meant a walk along the side of the river with quite a lot of bird life and little pedestrian or car traffic. I could even see the river when I sat outside my unit. Peace. Watching the tidal flow was also a reminder of the bigger world we are part of.

Most of the other conference participants were people involved in the ‘hands on’ care of older people. These professionals are the salt of the earth. If we had more people of their calibre what a better place the world would be. This was in the week in which the lists of the richest women were published. I am always reminded that these people don’t actually make money themselves – they just acquire the money, already in circulation, from other people. What a huge contrast between the two groups. What a different world it would be if those involved in the care of older people had a bigger say in the way the world is run.

There are so many different aspects to the type of care older people need, including the importance of dental care. If people don’t have access to this and their teeth decay, then they have problems eating, and the type of foods they are able to eat. This often makes a balanced diet difficult to achieve. For people in residential care, arrangements usually have to be made not only to get an appointment with a dentist, made more difficult if they can’t afford private care, but also the transport required to take them there. There was one story of an elderly person not being able to identify her own dentures from the 3 sets in front of her. When teeth are not properly looked after it makes it more difficult for nurses caring for them.

Added to the problems associated with dental health are other areas of concern such as incontinence which I am told affects 1 in 3 older people. This figure makes it even more important that information about pelvic floor exercises, and the importance of them, be more widely known.

I am sure that as we age we don’t want to think of these issues and the fact that they may apply to us, not just other older people, regardless of who we are. We just have to be thankful that there are wonderful people who will look after us when we need it.

I guess as we get older we have seen so many New Years we get quite blasé about them, feeling that no matter how hard the world tries little will apparently change. It is changing of course but I am not sure it is through our choice.
Every year we add enormously to our knowledge source and one area in which we are committing huge resources is in the ‘big bang’ field, trying to find out how the world/universe started and perhaps why we are here. This I guess is a huge and expensive topic but it seems to have a single focus which I suspect is why we do focus on it. The rest of our problems are complex and hard to define so they tend to get ignored. Trying to make the current world, and its inhabitants, a better place is much too complex for us to think about addressing. Or is it just that we are too selfish to try, knowing that if we did provide every inhabitant with the vital necessities in life, such as shelter, clothing, food and fresh water, we would each have to lower our own standard of life, some more than others? We have created a strange world in which we admire those who are unselfish and share with others yet few have any wish to do the same. Worse still we tend to also admire the rich, the collectors of material wealth, and try to emulate them.
This particularly applies to many politicians who can’t see the very real danger of an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. To me the gap between what the lowest 10% of the population have and what the highest 10% have should be the real measure of a country’s wealth and prosperity. The ridiculous argument that if you tax the highest earners too highly they will stop working is just nonsensical. The rich are rich because they are addicted to money and wealth and having a bit more will always appeal to them.
Maybe our joint and individual resolution this year should be to stop at nothing to make the world a better place, particularly for those who currently have insufficient for their essential needs. Maybe a joint effort might actually work. Then we would have a New Year worth celebrating.

As I get older I realise that changes in society are continuously happening although slowly. It’s quite fun to try to work out which direction we are heading in. Is the so-called democracy of developed nations going to be a model for every country, or will it be modified first (hopefully ironing out current problems) or will a completely different model emerge?
Last week I had coffee with a friend of nearly 40 years. She has moved interstate so I don’t see her very often. We met when our children were very little and now our grandchildren are at the same stage. In the early days women were struggling with the question of work/career versus motherhood. Most of us chose motherhood particularly as childcare was much less well developed that it is today. I laugh when I hear complaints about the high cost of it to the nation! We mothers did all that for free and it was taken for granted. That was still regarded as our role and the financial contribution we made to the economy through what we did was rarely considered. One of the advantages of not having well organised child care then (what was available wasn’t usually of a good standard) meant that we organised our own child care amongst ourselves. The huge advantage of this was that long lasting friendships were formed which become even more precious as we get older. Our friends became substitute aunts.
What about the other half of this situation- the fathers? They largely missed out, or only had limited opportunity to be involved with their children. Many of them today are finding out that it is as much a precious experience for men as it is for women.
The traditional roles of men as the breadwinners, their only roles, are now giving way to partnerships in which the tasks in the home need to be shared equally, particularly if the mother is employed full time. I don’t know if anyone enjoys housework but most of us find it merely a chore. Men are apparently finding that too and still seem to be trying to avoid it if the statistics are accurate.
This role change is part of the history we older people are witnessing in our lives. As we live longer our own roles are changing as we have more years to enjoy the next generation. I barely knew my grandparents yet my grandchildren spent quite a bit of time with all of theirs. Before long great grandparents will also be a part of everyday life for young children. Maybe this will give them also an understanding that history isn’t just something from the past but it is constantly being created as society changes. How long into the future will it be before great, great grandparents are also a part of young children’s lives and how will this affect society and the values passed on to succeeding generations?

There always seems to be, and has been, violence in our world. We are clever enough to be able to land on the moon and we are now taking tentative steps to do the same on Mars but we can’t solve the problems of some of the basic, fundamental problems of humanity. Some people seem to be entirely peaceful and loving whereas others strew their lives with violence, yet we don’t seem to be able to work out how and why either condition happens.
Several events have happened lately which illustrate the two extremes of humanity. Firstly the lovely disabled Stella Young died after a lifetime of changing people’s opinion of disabled people. It is so easy to look at the outer cover people wear and make assumptions about what they are capable of. If you see someone badly disabled it is often hard to accept that there could be a brilliant brain inside the crumpled body- so often they are talked down to on the assumption that their brains are in the same state as the rest of the outer cover. We older people cop it too. When people see our wrinkled skin, and perhaps stooping bodies, they will often assume that our brains have been around for to long to be entirely functional. At least we haven’t faced this attitude all our lives as the disabled tend to have to.
The other end of the spectrum are those who choose the violent side of being human and go down this path. The terrorists, even those brought up in relatively affluent and peaceful Australia, will give it all up to go to kill complete strangers in a foreign land. Some of them take the even more feral path of taking hostages and then taunting them with death over many weeks, even years. How can there be humans who can torture other humans for no apparent reason than that they have the opportunity to do so? Some people seem to accept this as normal life but others become deeply traumatised by it, as we see from the numbers who serve in the armed services and come back and can’t cope with the memories of what they have done and have seen done.
Are there people who have no feeling for others no matter have much suffering they have caused or have seen inflicted on others? Can we identify these people early in their lives and change them? Our prisons, which also house these people, are expensive and appear to be ineffective. All they seem to do is reduce the opportunities these people have to follow their instincts or whatever description we give to their behaviour.
Perhaps we are all a mixture of the best of mankind and the worst as these behaviours suggest. These problems seem to be as difficult to solve as getting to Mars. Maybe we should give them equal priority.

The current behaviour of the Russian leader Putin raises the question of the qualities of people elected to be head of state, even in democracies, and to a greater extent where there are questionable free elections.
Those of us who have been around for a while have seen quite a lot of leaders come and go and few seem to be the saints we would like them to be. It raises the question as to why people stand for such office.
The role seems to inevitably make them a lot richer than they would probably have become without the role. Howard, for example, would have been a suburban solicitor if he had stayed outside the political field.
The biggest gain for them however appears to be satisfying the need for power and influence. The concern here is the affect these have on the decisions made. I read somewhere that Putin is trying to restore Russia to its former glory, in terms of land mass. Apart from anything else it takes the Russian people’s mind off things at home which apparently are not too good. Perhaps we’ll never know. After all the only news we really have is what the media feeds us and the same is true for the Russian people. Having access to world news seemed to be a good thing when it first became available. Now we know it is likely to be biased according to the beliefs of a few media owners, with a bias we are not usually aware of.
What the answer to all this is we don’t seem to know. Having the media in several different hands is perhaps our best protection but even this seems to be diminishing. Have there ever been so few media owners?
This brings me back to the motives of leaders. Many of them are as addicted to power and their own aggrandizement as addicts in other fields. This must affect their decision making. A bit scary.

One of the advantages of being older is that we have actually lived through quite a bit of recent history and can put modern developments into perspective. Today we are all concerned at the way young men in particular are drawn into militant movements.
Have we all forgotten how we behaved as we moved from childhood into the bigger world? This is a time when this age group question what they see around them and want to join groups that they feel will change the world. They have not yet developed the necessary judgement skills to know whether this is for better or worse. We need to recognise this phenomena at this age and try to channel it into something which will make the world a better place.
When I went through that phase Billy Graham was trying to conquer the world for Christianity and I tried to follow his example. As I matured I became aware of the hypocracy of those following this faith and I left it. The current inquiry into child abuse by members of the church makes me realise that I was not aware of the depth of the problem. What I have noticed in the decades since is that you rarely hear leaders from this branch of the church mention the name of Jesus Christ yet he is the one whose teachings they purport to follow. Is it any wonder they are deviating even further from the Christian path today?
What of the Islamic faith? I can only view this as an outsider. They seem to have as many different factions as the Christians. The fact that they seem to be fighting each other in some areas is no different from the troubles in Ireland in which the fighting between the Catholics and protestants went on for decades, despite the fact that this was against their faith.
What we need to realise is that young people want to change the world. That seems to be part of the development and evolution of mankind. We need to try to channel this into something which will benefit the world and which they can look back on with pride when they are older. Apparently when the Cronulla riots were at their peak the head of the local mosque gathered the young men, members of his congregation, together and told them that fighting was not the Muslim way and they were not to participate. These young men today look back on their restraint with pride. One of them told me this story. We can learn about responsible leadership from this.