Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA May-Jun 2013 Contents Peter Leith
I AM 83 (and a half) years old and
for almost ten years I have been
privileged to facilitate current
affairs discussion groups in aged
care facilities around Melbourne.
Of the many things they have
taught me, the standout is just
how many of the residents, both
women and men, experience
what they see as a shortage of
intellectual and mental stimuli.
They are also quick to point
out that, while their 'pre-care-
facility' lives may not have been
strong on mental stimuli either,
they were much stronger on the
stimuli of caring for themselves.
The second big learning
experience for me was, and still
is, the lengths to which residents
are prepared to go to attend a
forum in which their opinions
will be heard, listened to and
respected. Too often I have been
told: "they talk to us and at us but
not with us."
I have never yet heard any
complaint about physical care
and conditions but - and it really
is a very big but - even the very
best physical care can do little to
prevent the decline of the mind
NOT PAPER FILLING
The industry is constantly
striving to improve nutrition,
building safety and staff training,
while constantly be-devilled
with masses of bureaucratic
procedures and 'bumph'.
Paper filling instead of people
fulfilling... and there's the rub!
People must be empowered
not disempowered if they are to
continue living quality lives.
I know it all costs money and
staff are flat-out delivering care
and filling in the paperwork. I
also know the problem can't
be solved by throwing more
money at it. There will never be
that much money. But what I
suggest is some lateral thinking
to 'bridge the gaps'.
To give you an example, one
of the villages I visit regularly has
a well-equipped computer room
chasm and staff and
management of many facilities
Yet, many people I have met
in residential care simply share
the same sexual fears, anxieties,
prejudices and reservations as
their children and grandchildren:
Is he/she after my money?; will he/
she use me and dump me? ; and
worst of all, what will my family or
the other residents say/think? If
anything, men seem to have more
'hang-ups' than women.
'Ann', a seventy something
year old widow with advanced
Parkinson's has taken the lead in
forming a relationship with a fellow
resident, 'Reg', a dinkum Aussie
bloke and long-time widower.
Ann and Reg have found the
solution to one of the world's worst
STD's: Sensory Tactile Deprivation.
They have discovered the
difference between love-making
and having sex.
Holding Reg's hand -- and he
doesn't try to draw his away --
Ann tells me that they both enjoy
holding hands, hugging, kissing
and caressing. I will never forget
her saying, "we both think it is
not so lonely when you are
lying with your arms around
another person." n
Peter Leith is a former 'adman'
and 'one-time management
consultant' from Melbourne
who believes aged care
providers and commentators
should pontificate less 'about'
and consult more 'with' their
market of 'end users'.
Rock the boat
An 83 (and a half) year old retired
'advertising man' and AAA reader,
Peter Leith, believes the aged
care system needs reminding
what it is there for: the customer.
I have been
talk to us
and at us
with good internet connection
yet over sixty per cent of the
residents don't use it because
they feel they lack the required
skills and are fearful of 'messing-
up' the equipment.
Many residents of the aged
care facilities I visit are quite
isolated from their children and
grandchildren and, like me,
are not adept at using the new
technologies. All very well to
'just get your grandchildren
to show you how to use your
mobile phone', but what if your
grandchildren don't live nearby?
A possible 'bridging the
gaps' approach is to invite
senior students from the schools
close to your facilities to help
your residents learn how to use
the internet, Kindle and Skype.
Most secondary schools run
community and social service
programs for their senior
students and almost all have
media and IT courses. It is
about identifying complementary
or overlapping problems or
objectives and working together
for mutual benefit.
Meanwhile, I am
corresponding with both Skype
and the writers of "Skype for
Dummies" to get them to
produce a small, simple, legible
booklet that might be titled,
"Skype for Older Dummies."
Sexuality and older people
presents another communication
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