Ageing and Responsibility

These postings have been an attempt to cope with the ageing process, sometimes recognising what’s happening to us and adjusting to a situation that is hard to prepare for, and can creep up without warning. Necessarily the postings have been about us. Too much so perhaps. As if the world was full of elderly people, and the rest of the human family are of lesser importance and can look after themselves. But age brings with it responsibility.

This week a letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph signed by 110 distinguished psychologists, children’s authors, educationalists and mental health practitioners expressing concern at ‘the escalating incidence of childhood depression and children’s behavioural and developmental conditions’. This they believed ‘is largely due to a lack of understanding, on the part of both politicians and public, of the realities and subtleties of child development’.

They go on to say that ‘since children’s brains are still developing, they cannot adjust, as full-grown adults can, to the effects of ever more rapid technological and cultural change.

They still need what developing human beings have always needed, including real food (as opposed to processed “junk”), real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in, and regular interaction with the real-life, significant adults in their lives’. The letter continues, ‘our society rightly takes great pains to protect children from physical harm, but seems to have lost sight of their emotional and social needs’. The signatories conclude that it is ‘now clear that the mental health of an unacceptable number of children is being unnecessarily compromised’.

Admitting that this is a complex socio-cultural problem to which there is no simple solution, they go on to argue that ‘a sensible first step would be to encourage parents and policy-makers to start talking about ways of improving children’s wellbeing’ and’ propose as a matter of urgency that public debate be initiated on child-rearing in the 21st century.

This issue should be central to public policy-making in coming decades’.

The letter has already created the debate that it desires, and there has been a lot of media response. But news stories have a short life. The elderly however have a long memory and can empathise with the argument that many children today though endowed with immense riches compared to our own younger days, at the same time may be emotionally and mentally impoverished. I guess our maturity makes us care about that. And join the debate.

B.R.