Joan Bakewell argues that we need to readdress our attitudes towards old age.
Rather than the look at the elderly as a burden, we need to see living longer as a “cause of celebration”, says the baroness, renowned broadcaster and the government’s former Voice of Older People.
“Unfortunately, the media too often gets overshadowed by matters of care and who is to pay for it,” Bakewell writes for The Mirror. “It creates headlines about inadequate care homes, overworked carers and blocking beds in hospitals (I once got a tweet addressing me as 'you bed blocker'!).
“Of course, all these things matter, but they are problems for society to solve, not a reason to avoid rejoicing that so many of us are living longer. After all, everyone must privately be hoping they themselves will live to a ripe old age.”
She goes onto write that the elderly can still be “useful” to the young, highlighting the individual pursuits of her friends, which range from working in prisons to taking dementia sufferers on outings.
While she is “not insensitive to the fact that age takes its toll and ill health can ambush any one of us”, Bakewell, 81, says that there are two ways of ensuring that the needs of the old are met – looking after our personal health and also one another.
“If we bring those traditions of caring back there are plenty more who’ll be willing and able,” she continues. “Let’s celebrate them as they deserve.
“I’m sure if the world was organised otherwise, we might have chosen to remain perpetually in our 30s or 50s. But the inexorable nature of time and change brings us to where we are now. And we value our remaining time all the more.”
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