Saturday, 2 July 2011

Seniors and Self-Care

My friend Anne is American. She is sensitive and thoughtful. Yesterday, Anne and I were talking about ageing. "I wanted to talk to you about something you said in your book that I found so interesting", she said. "It's the idea that when we get old we will look after each other." For a minute, I wasn't sure what Anne meant. But then I remembered a section in the Eldercare chapter of my book that relates to a unique programme in the US state of Maine where seniors barter services and skills to help each other free of charge.

Anne asked, "Do you think that we are raising a generation of children who have never been taught the skill of nurturing? It's not that our children are necessarily spoiled, but we have given them so much and we asked for so little in return."

For a minute, we both stood silently, reflecting on this surprising and disturbing possibility. "I don't know" was all I could think of to say. But overnight, I have been reflecting more on this idea. I think Anne has a point here and it is that we need to teach the skills of giving and receiving care to our young people. Where should children learn these skills? At school? At home? At church? Eva Kittay, the moral philosopher and mother of an adult daughter with severe developmental disabilities would maintain that this type of education will never take place in a society that demonizes dependency of any kind.

The coming to grips with dependency issues and how to manage caring for each other is a political issue, I believe. Perhaps an entire generation of voting seniors caring for each other will shine a light on this vital area of the political landscape. Certainly, this growing demographic has the political clout to enact real change.
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