Today (1 October) is the International Day of Older Persons, a day created by the UN to raise awareness of issues affecting older people as well as appreciating the contributions that older people make to society.
This year’s theme is Taking A Stand Against Ageism. The Secretary General of the UK, Ban Ki-moon, said it is a chance to take a stand against the destructive problem of ageism.
“I condemn ageism in all its forms and call for measures to address this violation of human rights as we strive to improve societies for people of all ages. This demands changing the way older persons are portrayed and perceived, from being seen as a burden to being appreciated for the many positive contributions they make to our human family.”
For us, one of the biggest issues to tackle is the fact the institutionalisation of older people still occurs to this day. The old care-home model, where older people live in an hospital-like environment where their routines are dictated by management and their choices and decisions are limited, is clearly ageist.
The combination of old age and possibly ill-health or frailty doesn’t mean we should lose basic human rights like deciding what time we wake in the morning, what we should eat or who is allowed to enter our home.
We’ve rallied against this approach by creating Evermore – with a focus on love and companionship, and providing the right support to help older people to continue being a meaningful part of their community. And we are constantly on the look-out for models that share our ethos but also offers something for us to learn.
On a recent trip to New York, I spent time at the Sarah Neuman Nursing Home, which is part of the New Jewish Home family. They have designed a number of Small House communities for seniors, which is about creating a true home for older people and is inspired by our friends at The Green House Project.
Each community comprises of about 12 to 13 people sharing a home where the daily rhythm is dictated by the preferences of the residents and not the management. Anything institutional has been removed. For example, meals are a collaboration with the elders and food is shared together over a large table.
While visiting, I met a lady who prior to moving to Sarah Neuman had stayed in her own home with carers but was miserable and lonely. Now she’s in a small house, she shares her day with other seniors, mealtime is now a pleasure rather than a refuel, and the people she lives with are her new family. All this from a professional business woman whose body started to become less mobile but still has much to contribute.
We’re not supposed to be alone; we need the company of others, and we need to live in an environment that supports us to continue to chase our dreams and goals. That’s why we’ll bring this lifestyle to the UK in the Evermore way, as well as collaborating with partners to share the model of living across the country. Our hope is the movement will spread, the institutionalisation of older people will be abolished, and this form of ageism ended forever.
Evermore Founder & Market Innovation Director
Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA