One of the first things I did as a trainee Minister was to visit older people who were living in residential accommodation. I quickly found out that it could be depressing or uplifting in varying degrees, and often it seemed to have a lot to do with the attitudes of the staff. There is nothing worse than going into a large room with a circle of high-backed chairs the occupants of which are slumped over sleeping whilst a tv blares in the corner.
Sadly, we can probably all relate to that. Then of course there are the better Care Facilities where maybe the carpet isn’t quite so pristine, but at least there is life about the place, possibly with a cat or dog in residence. Changing the ethos of a residential home is a hard job and switching from observance of safe systems to an emphasis on the quality of life and reasons for living is not accepted everywhere.
I have just read about one such “experiment” in the US – Dr Bill Thomas of Changing Ageing writes movingly about how life has dramatically improved for one group of residents. It is a resumé of Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, writen by Atul Gwande.
In the meantime, can we spare a thought for all those who live in residential facilities where things have yet to change.