As I mentioned in my previous post "Ducks in a Row", I have become interested in thinking about the way we look after people who need aged care, and how we want to do this in the future.
1. Have you ever heard anyone say "We have an ageing population"?
I'm guessing, you probably have.
When you hear this, what goes through your mind? I myself, in the past, have thought: Oh yeah, I know, look at the number of rest homes being built around here.
Does the average person give it more thought than this? Am I bad?
I read something recently about a rest home that has just opened locally, and I realised I had, just in the previous week, walked down the road it is on. Walking my dog, down a very quiet empty road, I hadn't even noticed it. I had been aware, previously, that it was being built. And it's a really big building. I must be pretty unobservant.
2. Did you know loneliness kills - more than smoking?
Again, something you have probably heard, but always needs repeating.
So this is something we should all be aware of. You don't have to be alone to feel lonely. Being away from people you know and love is enough. Arriving at a new place, surrounded by strangers, can feel extremely lonely.
So my final question:
3. If we know that we have an aging population, and we know that loneliness kills, why are we building giant care facilities, and dumping our aged citizens at the edge of town?
I'm not having a go at the businesses building these homes, as there is a demand for them, but...
Thinking again, only of myself, if I am in this home, maybe at this point I can't walk well, or drive myself. Isn't being in a home surrounded by no shops, no cafes, and no other people aside from those living or working in this home, isolating? Do we assume all these people will just get on and look after each other? - out of the community and out of the way?
Isn't the move from the beloved home you know, plus neighbours, friends and maybe family going to cause anxiety enough, without being removed from any other recognisable forms of society?
Yes, I am being really unfair here.
Firstly, can we reasonably expect a retirement village in any form to afford prime land in the heart of town?
And secondly, are all care facilities on the outskirts of town? As I mentioned before, I am pretty unobservant. But I really don't think I'm alone in this. How often do you notice a rest home if you are not using it?
We all know rest homes exist, but for many of us, that's all we know.
How do we stop our rest homes being invisible and move them back into society?
Maybe if we can't take Muhammad to the mountain, we do the other thing. Can we move our communities?
Let's start by moving just a few pebbles, then let's get creative:
- What if this local care facility had a decent sized meeting room. Could the local community choir have its practices there? I'm sure many of the residents would enjoy singing, or at the very least listening?
- That same room could be used on other days for other local groups or evening classes. Let's add a few meeting rooms, so we can have art and dancing and cooking.
- How about after school care? This can be very difficult and costly for parents. Could this be built as part of the facility? Retired people have skills that many parents just don't have time to teach these days.
- What about a computer lab so the kids can teach the residents what they know?
- What about a cafe? Free for the residents, open to the paying public?
- A full-time restaurant?
- A crèche or a kindergarden. Imagine the attention those tots would get!
- Insert your own ideas here:
I'm not suggesting residents could run these businesses, but having them involved is only going to add value to their lives and ours. It's going to be beneficial to the rest home and the community.
If, when you need care, you move into a place you have been to before. If you are still surrounded by the community you know. Then anxiety and isolation will not be things we have to concern ourselves with when we think of a retirement home. It could be good.
I know this is not my idea, or even a new idea. So I'd love to know, do any rest homes in New Zealand have any of these facilities already? Is this something others have been talking about or working on?
I thought this talk below was great. She is talking about English care homes, but she explains what I have said above, and much more, in a very clear way.