Thursday, 21 October 2010

In The Prime Of Life

Have you ever asked yourself if you are fitter than a pensioner? This is the question being posed by BBC3 to late teens and twenty-somethings, with astounding results. Young adults are clearly not fitter than those four or more times their age. Only in the Sunshine state you might say with their obsession for healthy living, but could the same be true in Britain too? The very same conclusion might be drawn if we allowed our seniors to play an active role in life. Upon reaching pensionable age however they're carted off into nursing homes and retirement villages. Unfit to be seen and heard. Cast aside so the more able can take their place. Is it right that we condemn them to obscurity, looking instead to younger models for substance?

Jostling for position is natural some would argue, and hardwired into our primitive brains, but those deemed the fittest in society are surely examples of how not to live your life. Excessive boozing and guzzling, explosive language, violence and promiscuity are pretty much the norm. A heady mix of youthfulness and rebellion. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. Generations before us in their youth were probably not that different. Unlike Peter Pan, the boy who never wants to grow up, these boys and girls are squandering their youth on a diet of poor choice and excess, caring little about the consequences. Prolonged into adulthood, their biological age is ticking. Instead of ageing to perfection like a fine wine, they're fast-forwarding to an uncertain future or no future at all.

What's the remedy to this? Public health education obviously isn't having the desired effect, but as shown on BBC3 learning from others does. Lightweight in format, it nonetheless underlines the value of elders to the community. New dogs are taught old tricks and the old benefit from learning the new. Isn't this the attitude that should be reinforced, and not one in which we treat people like fashion, definable by age?

A burden on society is how the elderly are usually described, with nursing homes the dumping ground for those, it's assumed, have nothing left to give. Entering those doors deepens the state of decline. As the solution to a flourishing problem – what to do with our ageing population?, can we honestly say care homes have the best interests of the residents at heart? Evidence appears to suggest otherwise – residential homes do harm by doing far too much. Is this how we'd like to live out our golden years? To have our independence and freedom to think for ourselves curtailed? We only need look to the recent BBC1 series “The Young Ones”, where six celebs were taken back in time, for our answers. Giving residents autonomy in care homes has produced similar results. We need to build on this, as like rainforests cut down in their prime; without elders the human race is a dying one.