Our ageing population is a hot topic right now. I’ve enjoyed keeping this blog which I’ve thought of as a sort of pinboard for bits and pieces I’ve found relating to this issue.
The best link I discovered while writing here would have to be The New Old Age: Caring and Coping, a blog on the New York Times website. The blog is beautifully written, and discusses everything from death and dying to the psychological benefits of meal deliveries. It also deals with tricky topics like end-of-life care and living with Alzheimer’s. It seems to be written with the baby-boomer in mind, but I think the topics are relevant to anyone and everyone. In the sidebar, the blog is described thus:
Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children. In The New Old Age, Paula Span and other contributors explore this unprecedented intergenerational challenge.
As far as a New Zealand perspective goes, I am able to break down the material I found for my blog into several categories or issues:
A new global study into population growth by the United Nations found that we currently live in the oldest world we’ve ever had.
You can read more about the study and what it means for the world here.
I wonder how we will cope with the social and financial costs of this changing demographic.
This continues to be contentious, as it is in this country for everyone. (As I write, the PM has just issued a statement about housing affordability) But housing for the elderly remains to be a huge issue.
Age Concern estimates about 34000 New Zealanders to be living in residential care facilities such as rest homes. This is a good option for some people, but there are deep concerns about the day-to-day ethics and management of these facilities, which are often owned by large corporations posting big profits. In addition to worries about the care of the residents themselves, many have voiced concerns about the treatment of the carers, too.
In this post I wrote about Dr Judy McGregor, Human Rights Commissioner, who famously went under-cover as a care worker and published her Caring Counts report, in which she expressed concerns about the ‘modern-day slavery’ she came across.
In May last year, the government passed urgent legislation to ensure less people could claim subsidies on the cost of rest home care. Meaning fewer people will be eligible for a subsidy.
I also wrote about Maori in residential care (2% in 2008) and the different options being developed in this area.
Most older people prefer to stay in their own homes, but there are lots of ways in which this is made difficult. Health problems are most obvious, but in-home care is widely available. Another issue is money. Rising rates can make it expensive to stay, and every winter the media dishes up many a story of a cold, hungry pensioner going to bed early so as not to incur the costs of the heating bill. Here are some posts I wrote about these issues-
I think this continues to be a concern in our fast, career-driven society. Community can be more difficult to come by these days, and some elderly feel it keenly.
On a more cheerful note: it hasn’t all been worrying news. In my internet travels, I’ve found a lot of joyful material relating to elderly people. There’s the story of 83-year old Mavis who still lives happily in her own unit, relying on help from her daughter and in-home carers. I found quite a lot of material relating to elderly people in entertainment: the 91-year-old contestant in NZ’s Got Talent, for example, the brilliant hiphoperation crew as well as a host of other films and shows focusing on elderly issues, with unexpected twists.
And of course, my personal favourite, the elderly flash mob in downtown Auckland.