Ageing and Attitude

A professor from the University of California, Dilip Jeste, claims that people who think they are ageing well are not necessarily the healthiest individuals. His study of 500 people aged 60 to 98 and living in the community, led him to observe that optimism and effective coping strategies were more important to ageing successfully than ‘traditional measures of health and wellness’. Attitude is more important than physical health, he concludes. A good example, perhaps, of academics discovering what everybody else already knows!

Last year a report was published in this country called ‘Securing Good Care for Older People’, and I have been glancing at its formidable analysis and recommendations on the internet. The author, Sir Derek Wanless, accepts that he is peering into the unknown, that the care of the elderly is a political hot potato (as we said in the last posting), that to help people stay in their own homes is better than residential accommodation and that those who care for the elderly (and there are over five million of them) need better training and resources.

He advocates a system of partnership between the individual and the State, which will make it less likely that people will have to sell up their homes to pay for care and argues that the ‘policy-makers’ (his word for government) will have to use existing resources more creatively than at present. Funding comes from different agencies often without consultation and involving multiple applications. One agency should do the lot. Accepting that more thought has to be given to his proposals, he concludes that resources should be equivalent to those of the National Health Service.

No one doubts that people are living longer, though the social consequences of that still need to be recognised. I have been reading an article in The Guardian by Joanna Lyall.

She writes about Jeanne Calment, the oldest known person who died at the age of 122 last year. She could be seen riding her bicycle around Arles when she was a 100, lived independently until she was 110, and had a hip operation at 114. A young photographer took a her picture of her when she was 120, and said as he left that he hoped he would see her again the following year. ‘I don’t see why not, she said, ‘you look in pretty good health to me’.

Rather than physical fitness, a positive attitude to life contributes to a sense of wellbeing as we get older. It would seem that a sense of humour helps too!