With improved health care and higher standards of living, each generation is living longer than the last. Governments see our ageing population as an imminent disaster, and old age as a medical problem. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I wrote this collection of essays after interviewing many older people – some of whom were members of COTA. Through these interviews I began to see how society treats people differently as they get older, and how this can make life more difficult than it needs to be.
The essays are about a range of different issues, including how some women feel about their ageing bodies, and society’s expectations of what getting older looks like; the way novels are the perfect way of getting inside the minds of people with dementia and encouraging empathy for their situation; and how older people in the Tiwi Islands live, and what other aged care services might learn from this community’s approach.
I also wrote about the loneliness and isolation experienced by some people living in nursing homes, the way financial exploitation and abuse of older people can lead to homelessness, and how younger feminists should be fighting for the rights of older women to proper care and inclusion.
One of the preoccupations that kept coming up in the interviews was older people’s fear of being a burden. There is such a focus on maintaining our independence that many people worry about what will happen when they start to need help. This led to an essay on the right to be old, and it’s a theme that runs through the entire book, that ageing is not about staying young, it’s simply a part of life and should be accepted rather than feared.
You can buy the book here