I woke up this morning even more fired up than usual. Motivated not only by our own mission to end loneliness, but also from reading Roy Lilley’s latest blog which highlighted the desperation felt by many older people living without hope and increasing social isolation. Whilst the outlook for reduced incidents of dementia sounds positive, a longer older age is not seen to be such a good thing by many. As Lilley says: “We now face the prospect of living longer, not in a jungle of bewilderment but in a desert of solitude.”
In the same blog, Lilley writes about a healthy 75-year old nurse ending her life at an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland rather than continue towards a life of frailty. She had direct experience of working in the nursing homes of the UK and never wanted to contemplate ending her life in such an institution. As the Spectator so succinctly stated: “it is no wonder people might want to die to avoid growing old when old age and the treatment of those who are old is given such little value in our society.”
What a terrible indictment on Western Society. We’ve given more global media coverage to the senseless killing of Cecil the Lion than we give to the plight of older people. I’m an animal lover and I hate the idea of hunting as sport, but let’s get things in perspective.
What’s happened to our humanity? Do we need to re-educate people to be neighbourly and to offer the hand of friendship to those that need our support?
Older age is still a time of growth and opportunity, and it should remain so for all. In fact, we’ve seen recent studies that older old age is often the happiest time in peoples’ lives: “By 85, people were more satisfied with themselves than when they were at a bright and sprightly 18 years of age,” according to a substantial poll of 340,000 people.
We need to stop talking and start doing in partnership with older people, who have the best ideas about how they want to live their lives. Being human is about companionship, participation and purpose. And that is not restricted by age. I’m delighted that more and more people are taking action and making sure that things change for the better. We need to do more.
How must it sound to young people when the prospect of ageing is so bleakly portrayed; where old age is all about decline and the end of life will be grim? We don’t actually need to invent revolutionary technology. We need to remind ourselves of our humanity. The answer is very simple: companionship, participation and purpose. That’ll make us all live happier for longer!