4 Comments

  1. Tim

    I was at a meeting last evening regarding setting up a volunteer force for a ‘thing’. and one of the participants told us we were elderly, so your piece, Alice, is timely.

    At social events here in my town we often hear “Elderly people don’t like to go out in the evening.”

    The thing is, I’m 64. I will just manage to creep in to being able to draw my state pension at 65. Folk born a year later have to wait until 66, and so it goes. Soon we will work until we are 70. I have a part time job. I have the care on the water of up to 13 other people as well as me. I do a job with inherent dangers and risk as a boat skipper. There is no upper age limit on my job, just continuous proof of competence plus the same, albeit more regular, medical certification that I must have sub 65 to be able to do it today.

    I also have my own mental health issues. Sometimes they are so tiny as to be imperceptible, other times they can really get in the way. And I have gone into rooms and wondered why I went into them since I was a kid.

    “Have I had my tea?”

    My question is about the word ‘Elderly’. I know full well I’m an old fart. My son is happy to tell me so. So are my older colleagues. I’m happy to tell them so, too. An organisation I volunteer for has the oldest active volunteer as a 91 year old.

    So, that question. It’s based on your post title, ‘Mental Health and the Elderly’ and those key points:

    * discrimination
    * participation in meaningful activities
    * relationships
    * physical health
    * poverty

    Here’s the thing:

    * I get discriminated against anyway. I’m gay. I’m also married to a woman
    * I can participate or not in as many meaningful activates as I choose
    * Relationships are not just with my wife, they are with my friends, too. Some are older, others younger
    * Can’t do much about physical health, but I’m not yet frail. I do have type 2 diabetes. I can lose and am losing a load of weight to get that under better control

    You’ve got me defensive, you see. It’s that word. ‘Elderly’.

    When do I get elderly?

    And why?

    • Tim

      The more I look at this topic, Alice, the more I wonder why it is about this group labelled “The Elderly”

      You said “These key factors have massive implications on how vulnerable and susceptible the elderly are to mental health problems. The most common mental health problems that occur in people aged 65 and older are dementia and depression, which can alter their moods, personalities and actions.”

      Now dementia is a degenerative disease, isn’t it? Depression is an ailment of a totally different colour. With dementia I wonder, sometimes, if it is not linked to longevity. We encounter it more and more because more and more of us are living longer and longer? Or am I mistaken?

      Is dementia a mental health issue per se, or is it like osteoarthritis, the longer you live the more you acquire the degeneration?

      Is there a genetic, thus inevitable, component to dementia, or is it acquired by some other route? We used to blame aluminium saucepans for a while.

      Isn’t the issue more likely to afflict folk, all folk, as they live longer the depression panoply of illnesses? We know some of these to be transient, others to be triggered, still others to be swings between extremes, and others again to be the products of or the causes of obsessional behaviours. Indeed, there are more types of depression than you can shake a stick at, not least of which is post natal, something the older lady is unlikely to encounter.

      Take what I choose to call ‘simple depression’ a relatively short lived ailment that besets those susceptible to it triggered by some form of grief. The sufferer is first sad, then the sadness endures rather longer than anyone, especially the sufferer would wish.

      As we live longer there is a tendency to outlive our friends. I’ve outlived several of mine. One was a new friend who meant more to me than I expected. I was sad. My sadness passed. If I experience the more often, something I intend to do since I intend to be immortal, will I acquire depression?

      I think not.

      Could be wrong, but I think not.

      I’m arguing with you, Alice. I’d hoped to be discussing this with you but you haven’t answered my first questions yet.

      I may be turning into that old man with the plastic shopping bag shouting at traffic. That image comes from Bill Baiiey

      I’m arguing with you about being given a label and put into a box. Then I’m arguing about the contents of the box. There’s a great argument to be had here. In a while Bob has been kind and told me that he is going to post a piece that your piece created in me.

      We could have the argument here, or there. It could be a lot of fun, help folk think differently, help me, help you think differently. The piece just before yours is about a community and what I need from it.

      It could be a thunderclap of revelation

      Or, I suppose, it could be the sound of on hand clapping.

      • Sonya

        The word ‘elder’ used to/or does imply respect for someone older than ourselves or having more experience.

        Funny how adding ‘ly’ to it changes the feeling totally.

        Interesting points to make us think, Tim.

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