The elderly represent a large group of our general population. The majority have a particularly strong wish to stay fit and healthy in order to avoid having to depend on help by others.
Some of the problems the elderly face include failing heath, neglect, isolation, abuse, fear boredom and the stress involved with the lack of preparedness for old age.
We should all be doing more for the elderly. Learning what it feels like to be old is one way of changing peoples perceptions of the elderly.
The following is an interview with a 73 year old retired woman called Sheila Clayton from Telford in Shropshire.
Q. Since you have become older what daily activities do you find more of a struggle and why?
A. I struggle with anything I need to reach or stand on my tip toes for. I find it very difficult to balance on a chair. I can’t get out of the bath so I have had a walk in shower installed.
Q. What fears if any do you have?
A. I am afraid of falling. Generally I have take to take things a bit easier and think about everything I am doing.
Q. Have you had any slips or falls in the last few years?
A. I used to slip a lot in the bath before I had my shower installed which was instrumental in having a walk in shower installed.
Q. Do you struggle using the toilet?
A. Yes when I am out in public as new modern toilet seats are very low. My toilet is an old toilet and much higher so I haven’t had to change it.
Q. How have you made your home more “elderly friendly?”
A. Yes I have had a new shower enclosure installed and a slightly higher toilet. But I haven’t had the need to add hand rails yet. Luckily I live in a bungalow so my home is quite “elderly friendly”.
Q. Would you want to go into a nursing home when you’re unable to care for yourself?
A. I hope I never get to that stage but if I suppose I wouldn’t have a choice, I would prefer to stay in my home but nobody knows what the future holds.
Q. How to you get up if you are sat on the floor?
A. I have to roll over onto my knees to bring it up.
Q. What is the best thing and worst things about being older?
A. The best thing about being older is that you don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. The worst thing about being older is that you are young in your head but your body tells you are not.
Q. Have you noticed a difference in your grip?
A. No I can still hold onto things even though my knuckles and fingers are swollen.
Q. Can you still eat all the foods you have always enjoyed?
A. No I have had to give up a lot of foods that I used to enjoy due to ill fitting false teeth
Q. Are you worried about paying bills and the lack of income since you retired?
A. I worry about paying my heating bills, but generally I budget well and cut back when necessary.
Q. Have you ever suffered any age discrimination issues?
A. No (maybe from mail drivers because I keep to the speed limit – but it could be my sex)!!
Q. Do you suffer with boredom?
A. Yes, frequently. I think up new things to do to keep myself occupied, or I bury myself in a book.
Q. Do you ever feel isolated?
Q. Do you suffer with low self-esteem?
A. Occasionally, especially when I get absent minded or forgetful.
Q. Do you ever get lonely and if you do what do you do to help the problem?
A. Yes, I chat to friends or family on the phone, that helps.
Q. Do you ever suffer with depression?
A. No, not real depression, but I get low or fed up at times.
Q. Do you have trouble sleeping?
A. It takes me quite a while to fall asleep, but apart from getting up to use the bathroom, I sleep ok.
Q. What do you think society as a whole should be to improve the lives of the elderly?
A. It would be great if heating was at a concessionary rate for over 70’s. Because of immobility and other factors, we feel the cold much more than younger people. It is especially difficult if you care living alone with only one pension. The heating allowance is great but it needs to be much higher to make a real difference.
Sheila is lucky in one fact that she has a safe home environment and it looks like she has got a good chance to stay in her home for the rest of her years. Those that haven’t got a bungalow and do not want to move could consider moving downstairs. Obviously the bathroom will need to be moved but there could be an alternative such as installing a small but functional wet room. Read more about our Sandringham wetroom here.
Boredom and loneliness are common complaints from the elderly, and Sheila agreed. One thing which could help would be learning a new skill. Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you can’t get out there and learn new skills. Retirement is a great time to start doing things you have always wanted to. This website will help you find classes and courses:
But family and friends need to step up a gear. We are all going to get older (if we are lucky) so we will be in the same situation one day. It is important to involve the elderly in our lives and help them feel less lonely or isolated. If we try to put some time aside to visit our aging relatives and invite them around and involve them as possible, our children will see this as the norm. When it’s our time to be the one sat in the chair less able bodied than our younger family hopefully they will be the ones to care and be there for us.
Sheila mentioned about the cost of living and how she worries about her heating bills. The hikes in energy have affected us all, but the elderly are most vulnerable. A concessionary rate for over 70’s would be much more beneficial to the elderly than a one off payment. However there are lots of people struggling to pay bills without realising they may be entitled to help. According to Age UK about £5 billion in benefits go unclaimed by over-60s every year. Many people are not collecting pension credits which would boost their income. To find out if you or an elderly person you know are missing out on cash they are entitled too, this simple benefits calculator by Marin Lewis (the only chap to listen to regarding saving money) will tell you what you are entitled too. He has a great page on money saving for the over 50’s: Did you know that there are grants and free courses available for the elderly?
If you want to help an older relative, go around and ask them. Check to see if their home needs any improvements to keep them safe. Ask them what they are struggling with. If its hygiene you will be able to tell, but have a look in the fridge, have they food in the cupboards? The elderly love to talk, so question them but remember older people can be proud and may not want to admit they need help. Just explain you want to try and help them in anyway you can. It might be just a cup of tea and a natter is all they need. But you wont know unless you find out. Remember one day, it could be you in that situation.
Some more useful links:
Benefits and tax allowances in retirement