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GlobalNet21: Recreating Our Futures Message Board Meetings, Interviews, Articles & Social Action Reports › Report: “The Age Divide” (18/02/2010 mini-meetup)

Report: “The Age Divide” (18/02/2010 mini-meetup)

Christina W.
user 3986671
London, GB
Post #: 14
People are living longer, and how we treat our growing number of elderly is now an important human rights issue. How will aging of the developed world affect our lives and the availability of care services as the century progresses? Who should provide these services to the elderly and how can we ensure their well-being?

By: Ingrid Ots, 21st C/N Reporter

Well-being and “encouragement of a shared identity” of our older citizens is at the centre of Jenny Davison’s work. Jenny is an arts coordinator for Elders Voice, a community project in London Borough of Brent.

Brent has one of the highest rates of gun crime and violence, and, according to Jane, many elderly she works with are afraid to go out and engage with a wider community. This inevitably leads to loneliness and little contact with other generations.

“We fear our young more and more”, says Jane. “Elders Voice Singers was created to promote inter-generational cohesion. At present, the group has 20 to 22 members, between 64 and 90 years old, who are performing a mixture of songs not necessarily expected from older people.”

“We cover the gap between generations”, she says, giving an example of a ‘reciprocally beneficial’ work on South Pacific musical production at a local school. “Our work cultivates a sense of shared identity, it helps to form relationships, develop discipline and trust and boost performance skills. It is also a well-known fact that singing is beneficial for health.” She quotes the words of one of the singer’s niece: “Last year you were staring at the wall waiting to die but now you’re in and out, I can’t get hold of you”.

“The goal of our work is to eliminate depression and isolation in a non-stigmatised way”, says Jane.

In ten years time the number of elderly will reach 40 per cent of the whole population, reminds Stephen Lowe, social care policy adviser for Age Concern and Help the Aged.

“At present, 65 per cent of care is provided by families, 17 per cent by elderly themselves, 10 per cent is privately purchased and only 18 per cent is done by the state”, says Stephen. “But, as a traditional model of a extended, multi-generational family breaks down, even a minor change in numbers of people who need help with care will put a substantial pressure on social services”, says he.

The misconception that people over 65 have a reduced need to be involved in the society has to be rebutted, and the elderly should be able to exercise the right to personal development. “Japan has a concept of well-being as of actions that give your life meaning. Life after the age of 65 can be static, but with an increased life expectancy we should seek new ways of enriching the lives of the elderly”, says Stephen.

Still many struggle to obtain even the basic care. Homeless charity Crisis estimated that of 340 people recorded on the street in London last Christmas the majority were elderly. While 100 beds for them were found by borough, the rest was provided by voluntary sector.

Exclusion from places of work remains another issue. Agism in employment is the most common form of prejudice, says Graham, a founder of the website IDF50, aka ‘I don’t feel 50′.

This is partly due to the fact that many elderly are not fluent users of modern technology. Office of National Statistics found that 75 per cent of over 65 have never been on the Internet.

Graham, whose website is visited by over a thousand people a day, supports Jenny’s idea of learning through fun. “We should challenge stereotypes about the elderly. Will you call Bill Gates, who is well over 55, a ’silver surfer’?” he asks.

Quoting American social media writer Howard Rheingold: “Unlike racism, agism is self-curing. People who live long enough eventually get the point”.
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