There is perhaps no greater social responsibility than caring for the elderly. Traditionally this was the jobs of families. However, in the 20th century, especially, this became a public obligation to invest in and ensure the welfare of older populations. However, in the current climate of austerity this once sacred duty seems increasingly hard to guarantee. Added to this are emerging concerns of how we can support not just those who are retired but also those looking after them. This has presented new opportunities and challenges for age-old task of caring for our elders – the topic of this week’s episodes.
One of the main contemporary challenges for elderly care is finding the human and financial resources during the current period of economic crises and volatility. Despite being a widely recognised universal priority, the concrete investment in such services is commonly inadequate. Increasingly, it is being asked “can we afford to care for older citizens?” These problems are exacerbated by rising life expectancy and the greater pressure placed on people of non-retirement age to work. The traditional care home is no longer seen as appropriate in light of these issues. Sonia Sodha addresses these concerns in her article for the Guardian “Underfunded and overstretched – the crisis in care for the elderly”.
Yet these problems also present fresh possibilities for modernising and improving elderly care. The convention choice between spending the remaining years of your life at home or in a care home is being dramatically expanded. New options are emerging – particularly those focused on creating self-sustaining multi-generational communities for older citizens. These combine a sense of community, assisted living and wellbeing for these who are older. Sandy Fraser highlights these new opportunities in his article for The Conversation “The Crichton campus that could plug the care gap for older people”
This also means expanding the interaction and relationships of the older population. In many cultures, the elderly are revered for their wisdom. However, in the current society there is often a problematic ignoring of the important social role that older citizens can play. They are commonly marginalised and seen as a burden. One way for overcoming this misconception is to create opportunities for them to interact with more people across generations. Indeed, this reverses the conventional narratives, so that older people take an active role in caring for others. Catrin Hedd Jones examines such possibilities in her article for The Conversation “Combining daycare for children and elderly people benefits all generations”.
Finally, there are emerging concerns over who will care for caregivers. It is not just older populations who are too often forgotten and uncared for. It is also those who are responsible for them. Balancing work, life and caring can be a nearly impossible task. There are also emotional burdens that require support and understanding for such a process. Dhruv Khullar investigates these concerns in his New York Times article “Who Will Care for the Caregivers”.