Why old age need not be a burden

 
Daphne Bernard Daphne Bernard is in her 90s, but remains physically active

Meet Daphne Bernard. She is in her 90s, but remains fit and active, playing badminton and going to her local gym in Eastbourne every week.

Last year she did a 12,000ft tandem skydive for charity.

Ms Bernard is just one of a growing band of the "old old" - or fourth generation as they have been dubbed.

There are more than 1.5m over-85s in the UK. By 2030 the number will have doubled and by 2050 they will top 5m, dramatically changing the demography of the country, according to forecasts.

This is important. As a House of Lords committee report has suggested, the gift of longer life could cause a "series of crises" in the public service - not only in terms of health and social care, but for pensions, housing and employment.

But much of the projections made by this committee and other bodies that have looked at the issue of the ageing population assume old age automatically means an individual becomes a burden.

That is understandable. Research suggests that while people are living longer, they are not automatically living as long with good health.

In the two decades since 1990, life expectancy has risen by 4.6%, but healthy life by only 3%.

Maintaining friendships

Today most over-85s have between three and six long-term conditions, which includes everything from heart disease and diabetes to dementia.

It means they are more likely to end up in hospital and, when there, spend four times longer recuperating than younger people.

But there is growing evidence that with better planning - by both the state and individual - some of this can be avoided.

Start Quote

Older people need to be cared about, not just cared for”

End Quote Michelle Mitchell Age UK

If the elderly are given more support in the community, they stand more chance of remaining independent and out of hospital.

In Torbay, for example, health and social care budgets have been merged, encouraging a more co-ordinated approach to caring for the elderly, resulting in a fall in hospital admissions.

A report published this week by Age UK, Improving later life, understand the oldest old, makes a similar case.

It points out that while old age does bring with it challenges, it does not necessarily need to spell a downward spiral to infirmity.

The report said that the majority of people over the age of 85 actually rate their health and quality of life as good.

But the key to this, it said, were two factors: remaining active and maintaining friendships.

The importance of living healthily is well rehearsed. But the role of socialising is often less acknowledged.

In fact, Age UK goes as far as arguing it is just as important as the physical activity bit as loneliness is a risk factor for both cognitive and physical decline.

"Older people need to be cared about, not just cared for," says Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK.

"This means listening and responding to an individual's views and choices so that an all-important sense of dignity and identity can be maintained throughout a person's life."

 
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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 75.

    di47, you are correct. It is the biggest insult to every English native that we offer a free for all benefits bonanza to all and sundry.

    Blair instilled this foul system, aided by leftist maggots and the deluded BBC socialists.

    You will note that the Newsnight expose has not been mentioned; how telling that the BBC has to resort to planting Labour supporters in the audience. SHAMEFUL!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 74.

    The film Soylent Green springs to mind, being set in 2022, brings shudders just thinking about it...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 73.

    60 TeresaQ - "Don`t let them forget that we were the teenagers of the 60s, and we fought for change then too"

    Indeed! And there`s fight in the old dogs yet.
    Perhaps we should rummage in the attic, dig out those old placards and banners, and get marching again.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 72.

    re 49Bruxical

    Never understood why we bury or cremate people, a waste of good protein. We should recycle the old as soon as their usefulness is past.

    ***********************
    It's the young that need recycling as in learning to read and write (with correct grammar and spelling) and add up. NB BBC. The old are adept at all that easy stuff and should be implored to use their skills...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 71.

    I'm old but active in mind and body, or at least I think I am.
    It can't be right that 60% of all NHS expenditure goes on the over 65s.
    I'm in favour of legalised voluntary euthanasia.
    I'm also in favour of the death penalty for minor traffic offences and for those with 5 or more criminal convictions.
    I'm getting more liberal on social issues as I get older.
    Alan

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 70.

    One thing is for sure, as far as I'm concerned, is that soon I'll be writing a "living will" demanding that I, for one, shall never be admitted to one of those ghastly elderly care homes. I would rather live for 6 months in my own home (even if it ends in me being found in a crumpled, lifeless mess at the bottom of the stairs) than 6 years in one of those places.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 69.

    49Bruxical

    Never understood why we bury or cremate people, a waste of good protein. We should recycle the old as soon as their usefulness is past.
    ====
    Don't think human DNA in the burgers will go down so well.


    ...

    Do you want eyes with that?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 68.

    49Bruxical

    Never understood why we bury or cremate people, a waste of good protein. We should recycle the old as soon as their usefulness is past.
    ====
    Don't think human DNA in the burgers will go down so well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 67.

    49 Bruxical. that is going a bit too far but I do believe that if you are going to be cremated the heat generated should then go to power homes & businesses. The body is no longer the person who was loved, but just a body. it would be wonderful if we could keep our health and then just gently fade away without needing any help whatsoever.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    Aging is an inevitable process - as is it's natural conclusion- not an illness. The medicalisation of aging is in part due to a society which prefers not to face up to its own mortality, or it's responsibility to those elderly who do need care.
    Too large a proportion of NHS funding, too often to futile ends, is spent during the last year of people's lives - regardless of their age at the time.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 65.

    I know of a great many people who passed away before reaching pension age, including my husband who was 64. Most of these people have paid into the system for all of their lives. It seems to me that in the end it all evens itself out. It's the people coming from abroad who are draining our country dry. I find it difficult to manage & I see these immigrants on benefits living the good life. Mad.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 64.

    @22

    It isn't as easy as you suggest. Being healthy in old age is largely a matter of being fortunate with your genes. All the old people I know with dementia had healthy lifestyles when they were young. Actually, in a couple of cases, it was their healthy lifestyles that indirectly caused the dementia in that their healthy bodies have outlasted their minds.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    If getting old is causing such a burden on society, would the government like to suggest an alternative?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 62.

    I'm 65. Did my time, paid my taxes £million+ with interest. Don't need help, and don't want it. What I do want is a dignified way out when I choose to go. Would prefer a warriors death with a place in Valhalla but that won't happen. So I have to plan a way to avoid ending up with someone wiping my bum. I want voluntary euthanasia available to everyone. Dignity is more important than longevity.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 61.

    My mum is 83,always been fat and always smoked like a chimney,she can walk miles,is strong as an ox and alert,like the lady heading the story she is an exception.The ageing population will be a medical and caring burden on finances,older people have increasingly more and complicated illnesses,if most people spend their life's living like a monk this is what to be expected.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 60.

    So they are surprised that the baby boomers are now aged 55 +? We have worked hard, paid taxes and fulfilled our part of what we were told was the deal. Now we are waiting for them to do their part by paying out what we have paid in and we are a problem? Don't let them forget that we were the teenagers of the 60s and we fought for change then too. http://studentat60.blogspot.co.uk/

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 59.

    Raymond # 27 “Perhaps best of all is developing the ability to be comfortable in one's own company. Solitude is not always as black as it is often painted.

    I do agree with you, solitude is to be valued and treasured – but loneliness is surely different, especially when it is enforced through circumstances.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 58.

    I am an old`un.Worked hard at what I was good at, never asked for handouts, and in retirement get about the country as I choose.
    I hate the labels BBC is generating.
    How old are the media lovies who peddle all this garbage??
    Fact: In 100 years the present generations will be DEAD!
    Vast majority of those born 1900 not here any longer.
    Life is a process you cannot get out of alive.Get used to it!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 57.

    Another PC item BBC?
    The old are now the "Problem"?
    Thank God people are living longer.They are also Remembering Longer!
    So can remember the past misdeeds of all parties!
    Time the dogma of political parties died off!
    Marx, Lenin, Stalin? All failed but left wing parties emulate.
    Time for a complete change. 1945/48 ushered in this time.
    1945 now long in past, change for 21st Century essential!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    Being old is no fun at all. Being retired is great however as long as there is money in the bank and people dont make their living ripping the elderly off.
    Its the need to hire other people to do the odd jobs one used to do for oneself that needs attention There are some very dishonest folk around.Why are most apartments always a bedroom and a walk in wardrobe but described as 2 bed

 

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