The results of a recent poll reported in The Guardian are disturbing. Apparently 40% of Britons fear being lonely in old age. Two thirds of the adult population are ‘frightened’ by the prospect of having to move into care homes. More than 90% said they knew they could not survive on the state pension and would need to rely on savings. 55% of people didn’t believe that older people in Britain are generally treated with respect.
Accepting that no poll is ever totally reliable, these figures suggest that ageing is the ogre that haunts many people. My blogs are an attempt to face the realities of old age, but to do so in a positive way. In my last posting we faced the fact that there are no easy answers to the process of ageing and the provision of care for older people. But answers must be found. For example, Charities in the U.K. estimate that spending by the state and individuals will have to increase fivefold to keep pace with the number of people living longer than ever before.
There is a great deal of research on these matters in this country, some of it government sponsored. The minister for social care, Ian Lewis, has said that priority should be given at all times to maintain the dignity of older people.
But what about this fear of ageing that some people have? And the darker fear of death itself. In the Spanish translation of these blogs there has been some correspondence between two people who are coincidently both Argentinian. One, nearly fifty years of age, says she is ‘terrified ‘of getting old and of death. ‘ Old age is very sad whatever people say…I am a woman who doesn’t want to age, who cries daily.’ But her respondent who is in her sixties, writes about a friend who has helped her to cope with ‘the inevitable moments of existential anxiety’ and who has convinced her that death is simply a liberation, a change.
Older people, when they are together, share stories of their aches and pains, and how they manage to live as full a life as possible despite them. They talk nostalgically of the years through which they have lived, a common experience which helps to unite us but hopefully doesn’t exclude us from wider contacts with people of different generations. (The ‘old days’ were never as good as we can too easily suggest!). But we don’t often talk about endings, about death.
Perhaps we should.