A new advertising campaign has recently launched featuring photographs of people with Alzheimer’s staring at a reflection of their younger selves in the mirror. The photographer, Tom Hussey, said he was inspired by a World War 2 veteran who told him that he couldn’t understand he was 80.
It’s a striking campaign but this situation is not unique to those living with Alzheimer’s although admittedly the reasons are different.
Many older people often say to me they don’t recognise the wrinkled face staring back at them in the mirror every morning. Neither do they jump at the chance to take the seat on the bus or train when it’s offered by a younger person. In both cases it is because they don’t feel old.
Age alters our physical appearance but the personality traits, passions, beliefs, and everything that makes us unique is inherently the same. Sure, we have more life experience under our belt but deep down we’re the same person at 80 as we are at 60 or even 30.
So why then do health, care and housing providers portray older people as a homogeneous group, thinking all people over a certain age want to be treated in the same way?
And why do well-meaning family, carers or hospital staff start taking older people’s control away from them in the mistaken belief they no longer want to make decisions for themselves?
This is not right and it needs to stop. It’s time to recognise that age is literally just a number and it shouldn’t be the reason why people stop enjoying a happy, independent and fulfilling life.
At Evermore, a new model in retirement living in the UK, we strongly believe in empowering older people to celebrate their individuality and retain their independence.
Inspired by Dr Bill Thomas and The Green House Project, we are creating an intentional community for older people where every individual has a role. Whether it’s helping in the kitchen or deciding on the activities for the day, everyone will have the opportunity to contribute.
We want the older people who come to live with us to be an active part of our family-style household, but also to participate in the community that surrounds us. Nurturing relationships and connections will help tackle the isolation that prevents many older people from living their life to the full.
This will translate to how our staff interact and engage with the older people at Evermore. Known as Mulinellos, these multi-skilled whirlwinds will actively listen to what older people want and will provide the support they need to continue doing the things they’ve always loved – from conga lines to cooking, sailing to savouring wine.
It won’t be the traditional carer and resident relationship, where things are done to or for the resident. It will be a partnership driven by compassion and understanding- one where we will help each other to share in the joy of companionship, the ability to continue learning and laughing, and the simple pleasure of just being ourselves.
Sara McKee, Founder of Evermore
Follow Sara on Twitter – @SaraMcKeeFRSA
This post first appeared as a guest blog on ChangingAging