‘Our village must mobilise to support the well being of elders,’ read a recent headline in the West Australian Newspaper. The headline twists the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.
The writer of the article, Rhonda Parker, a former Minister for Ageing in the Western Australian government, heads Alzheimer’s WA. She says:
With the ageing population putting pressure on families and the health and aged care system I suggest we adopt a 21st century addition to this phrase – it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to care for its elders.
Perhaps Ms Parker’s point of view of seniors can be excused because, in her role with Alzheimer’s WA, her clientele suffers from dementia and needs care.
However, as a fully-functioning eighty-year-old, even with my wonky knees, I’m somewhat bemused by ageist writing that discusses me, and others like me, in the third person. All those authors who talk about seniors as, ‘they’ and ‘them’ – what are they thinking?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in seven of the population in Australia is aged over 65 years and therefore deemed to be aged.
However, only a tiny percentage of older people suffer from mental and physical frailty so severe they need constant care either at home or in aged care facilities. Others may need a little help with some parts of their lives so they can live at home successfully (‘age in place’.)
As well as that, as Ms Parker points out,
We know age increases the risk of depression, social isolation and disengagement from the local neighbourhood. We know the three demons of later life are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.
However, most people over sixty-five enjoy happy and fulfilled lives.
Seniors contribute to the village
Most of us older people can and do
- Look after ourselves and our affairs
- Make decisions and, like everyone else, live with the consequences
- Provide support to our families, friends and neighbours
- Provide informal (and sometimes formal) care for others, including parents, partners, grandchildren and great-grandchildren
- Look out for friends and neighbours of all ages
- Contribute to the economy when we shop, pay our bills and maintain our homes
- Volunteer our time and expertise to a variety of causes
- Belong to organisations, clubs and groups of many different kinds
- Support the arts through attendance at the theatre, art galleries and movies
- Read books, journals and papers
- Enjoy hobbies
- Play and have fun
- Celebrate our own, our families’ and our community’s special occasions
- Make memories with others.
Some seniors also
- Work in paid employment either full or part-time
- Attend church
- Exercise and play and watch sport
I wish people, especially those in positions of influence, would not talk about us as if we are a burden to be managed.
Like everyone else, we enjoy being involved in the lives of our families, friendships and communities. We are the protagonists in our own lives.