Catching up, as I always seem to be, on last week’s copy of The Week as this weeks’ copy plops through letterbox, I noted a piece on ‘Patient C’ – the 50-year old who was supported by the Court of Protection’ in her decision not to have life-saving dialysis as she was not interested in growing old now that that she has ‘lost her sparkle’. Fine – whether you agree with her decision or not, she is perfectly at liberty to make it and I reckon that the Court of Protection was quite right to support her. What I found objectionable was the views of Clare Foges in the Daily Telegraph. I quote:
‘There is something creakingly chilling about this case – the weight that it adds to the creeping cultural negativity surrounding old age. Getting old is coming to be seen as a disease to be avoided at all costs while the elderly are routinely presented as a burden…etc etc.’
I suppose I could be accused of having a vested interest here, having been happily travelling for free with my OAP Bus pass for quite some years now – but this is really not a picture that I recognise. Yes, of course, there are huge problems surrounding elderly people whose health (both physical and mental) is impaired or whose incomes are not adequate to support them. And yes, care for those elderly who are not able to look after themselves falls far short of what one might desire – but so does care for those in their twenties or thirties with physical or mental disabilities. This is not a problem which only concerns the elderly – it a general problem about how we care for those unable to care for themselves.
Moreover, many of those who now struggle with the health or financial problems of old age, lived much of their lives in the expectation that they would retire at 65 then enjoy a maximum 10 years old age supported by a modest but adequate pension. They never expected to live well into their 80s or even 90s and many were ill prepared for it. We baby boomers, born after the Second World War, now expect to live at least into our 80s and have, on the whole re-adjusted out sites accordingly. The ‘silver market’ is not only alive and kicking, but positively booming. Ask any travel agent!!
And what rubbish to suggest that there are no ‘older role models’. Two of the most popular recent prime time telly programmes have been fronted by geriatrics! Mary Berry (80) on the GBBO and Bruce Forsyth (87) on Strictly. Not to mention Nicholas Parsons (92) who is still fronting the long running radio comedy, Just a Minute. Warren Buffett (85) is extremely active as the world’s third richest man; Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss (83) is only one of dozen of peers and judges in their 80s heading up enquiries and probing very actively into the evils of our time. And I hadn’t noticed that HRH (89) had exactly lost her marbles – even if she has, at least temporarily, lost her sense of humour. (Are you surprised in that outfit?……)