“The wise mind mourns less for what age takes away than what it leaves behind”
At the moment I work as a Financial Guardian Administrator within the firm. I deal with people, mostly elderly people, who have lost capacity and need a Guardian to look after their affairs. Yesterday was World Mental Health Day 2013, a day observed across the world to raise awareness about mental illness and its effects on people. The theme for 2013 is Mental Health and Older Adults: it made me stop and think about what we as a society are in fact doing to manage the increasing issue (please note I do not use the word problem) of a growing elderly population. There is no doubt that in developed countries people are living longer, which encompasses more years at work, more years of an active retirement and a growing number of people in their 80s and 90s. Today it is estimated that there are 800 million people over the age of 60, all with an increased life expectancy and soon there certainly will be more older people on the planet than any other age group.
Our general attitude towards old people in Britain is not always laudable .Ageist sentiments of assuming older people are boring, weak, “past their sell by date” are not only discriminatory but isolate older adults, preventing them from contributing to society .The fairly frequent national scandals revealing the abuse and neglect suffered by many older adults living in institutions is a disgrace. So often it seems we let down the people who need us the most ,those who have raised us fought for our rights and our futures.
Of course there are huge health concerns for older adults. The World Health Organisation has estimated that by 2030 over 65 million people will be living with dementia, suffering a deterioration of memory, thinking and the ability to perform everyday activities. Another major mental illness facing the older generation is depression. Unfortunately as we age we are more likely to experience suffering from sad things such as bereavement, isolation, disability and long term health conditions which may in turn place people at risk of mental disorders. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 10-16% of elderly people in the community have depression, rising to some 40% of older people in residential care.
But if we’re fortunate, we too will grow old and it is now that ageing should be one of our concerns. It is at the present moment that we need to ensure there is funding so that research can be carried out into dementia and to seek effective ways of treating the condition. In fact on the BBC News last night UK researchers have , for the first time, used a chemical to prevent the death of brain tissue in a neurodegenerative disease. Professor Roger Morris from Kings College London has commented “ This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.” We have to fight ageism to promote active and healthy ageing. We should invest in better care so that old people can stay in their own homes for longer and then when an elderly adult moves to a residential nursing home we need to ensure the excellence of their care. We need to make sure that “Old age hath yet his honour and his toil.”