When are you too old to have ambition?


Tercera edad

Dame Joan Bakewell,the cultural broadcaster and writer once dubbed ‘the thinking man’s crumpet’ by the late Frank Muir, has suggested that elderly people would be far happier if they eschewed ambition,giving-up on ‘winning’, and lived more content with their lot. At a recent gathering at the Hay-on-Wye Festival, she also added, on the other hand, that a person in old age needed a sense of purpose when pursuing careers, caring for young family, and keeping one’s remaining friends, cease to play a crucial part in life.Old age she felt was like a ‘country’, where its inhabitants were generally excluded,depressed, and lonely.

The ‘country’ of old age

This for me this raises the age-old question : when does one reach the frontier of this awful country thus described? It is rather like measuring the proverbial piece of string.One arbitrary line, like the current official retirement age in the UK, for instance is not appropriate for the well being of all people reaching it, if strictly applied. Dame Joan believes that at the age of 81 she is reaching that frontier. For others of differing states of health, level of skills, including social, and lifestyle needs, the step into old age may be much nearer, or perhaps further away. I do like the idea, though, of conducting a later life that minimises anxiety so often the result of living with rivalry.

Where I have difficulty is defining ambition. One person’s ambition maybe to do more for others; another to write poetry or a novel, or perhaps simply just to do do something different, and have different interests from an earlier life.This kind of ambition is to be encouraged in my book.

Look for a sense of purpose

Whilst, the country of old age for many may seem a very bleak place, unless you can rest content on your laurels in the comfort of a life well lived, Dame Joan does see how this can change. Life can still be wonderful and fulfilling. With some adjustment of their goals, the elderly can still have a sense of purpose for the rest of their lives.

Old age is no longer a place of willing submissiveness

To help people with the necessary life changes, she advocates official help with the appointment of a ‘commissioner’ for the old, charged with looking after their special interests.The old now have significant political power, she says,’old age is no longer a place of willing submissiveness.’  People in later life now expect more from their later life.

What do you think?Your comments would be most welcome.


Who will care for the carers in our society beyond 2017?

Geriatrics and elderly careWho will care for the carers ?

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), more of us are worrying about how we will be cared for when we are older. A growing number of us have taken on the  responsibility for the care of parents, but the IPPR sees a growing ‘family care gap’ developing as the number of older people in need of care  exceeds the number of family members able to provide it. This gap is expected to be apparent for the first time in 2017

The huge challenge is to meet the care needs of an ageing baby boomer generation.This could increasingly continue to fall on adult children and their partners, with women being seen as the main carers and most likely to have to give-up work to take on the care responsibilities. The IPPR draws out a number of key issues which demand a rethink of how we look after each other in later life. There is the refocusing of the respective roles of state and individuals, also the widening of the narrow  focus on physical and health needs to include those needs necessary  to lead a decent life in older age.
Whose responsibility is it anyway?
The state though holding a pivotal role has never been the main provider, in the post-war period, of care and support for the elderly. It is family support that has carried most of the weight for this, at an estimated annual value of £55billion.
As budgets for spending on elderly care continue to be severely constrained, a recent NHS survey reveals that few of us believe government has the right social care policies. Post-war society has changed rapidly as the baby boomer generation age. More people now live alone, and family members often live far apart for both social and economic reasons. Looking forward,the IPPR in its report, is seeking to highlight solutions that place greater value on mutual  support provided by resources working within families,neighbourhoods and community networks.
So finally what can be done?
In making its recommendations the IPPR,believes the post-war model of social care needs a fundamental rethink, as it does not meet the wants and needs of the elderly, nor does it it prepare society to deal with an ageing  population.
A core recommendation is
  • the building and development of new neighbourhood networks  designed to help older people stay active and healthy, and support families find the right work care life balance.

This would work with other recommendations for

  • better care-coordination and single point contact
  • giving power to older people, families and carers to buy services directly using a community based ‘shared budget’
  • stronger employment rights enabling carers to better able combine work and care.
You can read the full IPPR report here…