“Feel Good, Heal Good”

Since January this year, I have been collecting some of the headlines in the press which relate to elderly people to get a sense of how they are currently perceived.    If you have been reading this blog for some time, there will be no surprises here.    The prevailing wind of press headlines, more often than not, blows in the direction of the burden that older people place on society.    The NHS and Social Services are struggling under the weight of the older elderly and this comes through in many of the headlines.

Here are a few of the headlines that don’t offer a great outlook to older people:-

  • “Rationing hearing aids is fuelling Alzheimer’s crisis
  • “Hearing aid cuts linked to spreading dementia”
  • “Loneliness is a devastating issue for a million”

These three headlines, although separately published, are related.  Hearing impairment is probably the most common frailty amongst older people, which is also the least talked about ailment.   Hearing loss is not a life threatening condition and is treated as something of a “Cinderella” service in the NHS.    It is low down the list in terms of priorities for treatment and like dentistry, it is more often than not contracted out to the private sector, and ceases to be “free at the point of delivery”.    The juxtaposition of these headlines inadvertently, but correctly, makes a link between hearing loss, loneliness and dementia.    I believe all three things are closely related.    I will say more about this subject in my next blog.

  • “Council tax bills will rise to fund care for elderly”
  • “Care home bills soar with only one week’s notice”

I’ve written a lot about residential care over the years and through all that time, Social Services have been strapped for cash to fund residential care and progressively it has been rationed to the most dependent cases, particularly those with dementia.    Residential care has consistently lived down to its reputation for poor care, underpinned by low pay and inadequate standards of training.  The recent Government move toward a higher minimum wage, whilst welcome, will add significantly to care home costs without improving the quality of care.

  • “GPs vote to axe care home visits”
  • “It’s cruel and cowardly for GPs to turn their back on the old”
  • “Doctors appointments far shorter in the UK than France”
  • “Dementia drive create false alarms”

These headlines all relate to the increasingly pressured and progressively eroded GP service.  You can find many of my earlier posts on GP services by clicking on “GPs” in the TAG CLOUD.  Withdrawing GPs regular visits to care homes, which look after the frailest of older people, would be a very callous decision.  Having said that, it’s understandable that GPs may have a case for additional funding to provide this service.    Many elderly people have complex and multiple conditions which don’t limit themselves to a single short visit to their GP.

The latter headline related to dementia refers to an initiative taken to improve the diagnosis of dementia, but sadly its unintended and easily foreseen consequences, resulted in a significant increase in identification of dementia sufferers without any corresponding resources to offer better treatment of the condition.

Because my blog is about turning Grumbles into Smiles, I also managed to find a much more positive outlook about ageing:-

  • “Over 60s can look forward to longer life than ever”
  • “Once you hit 70 it’s booming marvellous”
  • “Sign up before it’s too late: clubs are key to a happy old age”
  • “A third of homes are mortgage free”

These headlines are all about the fact that we are living longer and in the early years of retirement, many older people have more disposable income.    With good health and a positive outlook, retirement can offer many new opportunities to older people.    I will write about this more in a blog about Baby Boomers in two weeks’ time.

  • “How do you feel? The answer will reveal how long you live”

This final headline is perhaps the most significant of all.    It is based on research from the University of Geneva, who studied the lives of 6,000 men and women from Newcastle and Manchester over a period of 29 years.    In essence it said that if you feel good about your health, you live longer.    This is not a reflection of their actual physical health, nor is it about positive thinking.    The key issue is their sense of wellbeing.

This echoes some work we did at the ExtraCare Charitable Trust when we opened our first retirement community at Berryhill in Stoke on Trent.    We commissioned Keele University to study the first intake of residents for three years after they moved in.    When they first moved in we asked them how old they felt and most felt three years younger than they actually were.    When asked the same question three years later, having participated in an active life in the village, most people said they felt 20 or 30 years younger than they actually were.    The researchers referred to this concept as “imagined age”.

That’s what ExtraCare was all about, making older people feel younger than they actually were!

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3 Responses to “Feel Good, Heal Good”

  1. Dear John, a missive, not a thanks be to GOD Prayer, that some may offer.
    Your blog today, brings me up with a jolt! For instance where are we going as a society? I have to look into that mirror of life, and look for a minute or too at the reflection, and contemplate.
    As you state the media and society in general are looking at old age, not with rose coloured spectacles but annoyance of ‘why are we still here’? Or any other label they may wish to attached at or to the elderly.
    My mum died last year after having lived in a residential home for some 12 years-That was after Dad had passed away some 2 years earlier, and Mum could no longer live alone in the family house. Dad died at 81 years and mum at 94.
    When I and my sisters were looking for a home/place to live for mum, we had the following options to consider:
    Alms House/warden controlled housing-Council run;
    Nursing home/ residential home either private or council run and managed;
    MRI Nursing Home
    Staying with one of us four children, with our or within our own family group.
    At this stage Mum was in her early 80’s and had been labelled diagnosed with dementia, and while Mum had moments of lucidity, she could act with rational behaviour, but not with complete safety, either for herself, or those around her.
    The upshot was found, being a residential home, where Mum could live independently, but within a social group, and enjoy the security and companionship of her fellow residents.
    At the time there was no actual ‘retirement village’ nearby with the concept of The Extracare Charitable Trust.
    The Extracare Charitable Trust vision/concepts
    When Myself and my wife Molly came to review both my mum’s situation and our own at our joint age of 60+ for the future, up steps Dear John and his ideas, with the concepts of a ‘Retirement Village Life’, we listened, looked and questioned both Extracare and ourselves, as to ‘whether this was what we were looking for?;
    1/ a mixed social society with leased private and then shared-leased/rented-council ownership and a housing association.
    2/ a proportion of the residents on domiciliary care
    3/ Security of tenure and access to and from the village
    4/ A proportioned age profile, from 55+ through to 85/90+
    5/ Amenities, such as reception/restaurant/café/bar/hairdressers/IT suite web connected/craft rooms-including a fully fitted out woodwork shop/ activity rooms/ meeting rooms/greenhouse with raised external beds/ short mat bowling green (Internal external)/library/village shop run by an outside provider, and lastly a large village hall for events including entertainment shows/talent shows/dances etc. village meeting etc.
    i/ Each apartment has a call phone, a comprehensive fire alarm system, a pull cord in each room, a wet room/shower-toilet, and emergency lighting in each space room, plus external to each apartment is a socket and plug to charge up an electric scooter/wheelchair
    6 The whole complex was set in surrounding gardens, and we have local public transport, some dedicated visiting the village, or others within a 5 minute walk.
    All this was the back ground, all we as residents were asked requested to do, was to enjoy, volunteer where possible, and form our own village activities group, as we wished and desired, free from the Extracare Management structure, leaving us to enjoy each other company and extracare to run and manage the village fabric, and domiciliary care, and support services and offer free advice where necessary for any new venture or activity.
    Today-Reflections from the mirror on the wall
    I read the blog above, I reflect in the choices that we had with my Mum, and I just wonder if we as a UK society have moved on? Molly and I are now in our early 70’s
    WE all approach old age through our own perspective, but have we moved forward? Reflecting in the media (Escape to the country or abroad) for a period in life when we are free metaphorically from our children, and can enjoy our partners attentions, and rekindle those lost moments of youth and innocence, without guilt.
    However when we become older what do we look for? We maybe have had our gentle reflections in life without feeling guilty, but how old are you? Are you that spritely 55+: 60+, or maybe that 65+ However from the Blog of Johns higher up the page I suspect one is now approaching 75+ and maybe even 80+, and one is looking to be cosseted by life, and any organisation that provide that way of life.
    Beware of what one wishes for, and think of how that dream can sometimes come true?
    The Future That Extracare Charitable Trust Village.
    When the Initial concepts of an Extracare Charitable Trust Village is floated, are you prepared as individuals to put into village life, as much as you may wish to take out? This is a loaded question, as the political scene within the UK may wish to see all elderly persons housed in a central complex, regardless of what it can offered (Economies of Scale- for healthcare Etc.,), and we as a society have travelled no further forward than when I was presented with the problems of my MUM, and where should she live her last days of enjoyment.
    I certainly believe whole heartedly a retirement village concept is the answer, but as in all things in life we need a balance of mobility, wellbeing and age profile, so we can all assist each other, and understand one and other in living a freer style of living, and not being dependent all the time on the ‘state’ or others, or a charity in the broadest sense of the word. We must be self-sufficient in heat, body, mind and soul.
    Age may inflict pain on some of these concepts, literally?

  2. davidwfreeman237 says:

    read ( health not heat, please, next to last sentence, WE must be self sufficient in health, body and mind and soul.)

  3. Just a footnote: If one enjoys ones fellow persons company, chat, socialising, and companionship, in this retirement village (As with others under the Extracare Charitable Trust), one can if one wishes volunteer, at reception at the welcome desk-Gym- or wellbeing centre: No strenuous exercise, whether mobile or with restricted mobility only common sense required? There again if one wishes to bend stretch, and count pennies one can volunteer to work in the village café/bar/restaurant, and again if one cares to be physical with the extracare equipment and chattels, one can volunteer for work in the kitchen as potman/sandwich maker-It is good fun, you or one meets the staff, and one can get aggressive, with that scrubber/scouring pad, or inventive with the sandwich fillings, or become friendly with that liquid that is kind to the hands called ‘Fairy’
    Then there is the past times, Belly dancing for all comers, Pilates- Mobility or chair based, dancing, oil painting and water colouring, cards, (whist cribbage, bridge), dominoes with that companion in the café/bar. Then one can challenge ones grey matter in the IT Suite, and online shop, bank, and there again just blog, or tweet.
    For relaxation their is an entertainment committee (Volunteers who with Extracare) arrange social events, either dances/music/ horse racing, and inter extracare village challenges, and social events, plus the corporate events for all to enjoy.(UK Wide)
    All this at 55+ but hark I hear you say what about old age!!! Well there is only ones mind and bodily frame from restricting one from what is in their heart, so as long as one has the strength to communicate, one can join in and or volunteer for what one wishes? Then one can pamper one’s self in the Hair and beauty saloon, and partake of refreshment in the café/bar or restraint, all without, going outside the village! It is great!!
    One aspect of the village life is that we have a ‘Bric-a-brac shop managed and run by volunteers, the funds raised, can be substantial, and at a few social occasions, we run a raffle, again to help boost the activity funds.
    Are you that old yet? ( 75-80+) and do you wish to be cossetted or partake in life’s rich tapestry?? Answers on a post card please!!

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