Blog | Angela Gifford

Definition Of An Older Or Elderly Person

Older people, first of all we need to ask what we mean by the words. 'Older people' are they in their 60's, 70's, 80's or even 90's? Does age define the adjective 'older' any longer?

How old are you, the reader of this? If you are 60 or above do you wish to be categorised as an 'older person'?

Every day the words 'older people' are printed with reference to 'their care' and the surveys, reports, consultation documents, legislation all continually refer to older people needing care, older people to be given choice, older people to be treated with respect, older people needing safe options, older people needing support, older people needing to be in control and valued.

I have difficulty with two aspects of the above; firstly, there is no actual definition of older people. The World Health Organisation website says that 'Most developed world countries have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of 'elderly' or older person' whilst Wikipedia gives a definition of' 'Old age consists of ages nearing or surpassing the average life span of human beings, and thus the end of the human life cycle'. Which is not necessarily the same at all?

It therefore shows that to continually refer to 'older' people' is a meaningless description and one that it would be positive to relinquish.

Secondly, people are people and whether you are a young adult with a disability or a person in your late eighties if you need care to support you in life, then you simply need care that is reliable, appropriate, safe and social and you are involved in the service provision not allocated it, ageist descriptions should not come into it.

Appropriate care is not having a 'pop in' visit of 7.5 minutes as is reported to be purchased by some UK Councils, how many people when asked if this is what they want would answer 'yes'? However, having a 7.5 minute chat with someone each day just saying hello and asking how you are would be welcomed by thousands of people. The rise in the number of telephone befriending services demonstrates that human social contact is needed, welcomed and works as preventative care in essence.

If a person needs care, and are asked how they would like their care to be delivered to them, the majority of people would opt for unobtrusive, what can be regarded as traditional care and one that is reliable in its consistency.

There are people with high dependency care needs whose requirements for complex care by necessity makes their care provision prescriptive but these are the minority of people.

Several decades back the word 'welfare' was used to describe caring for people and it is a word which is relevant to today. It is not associated with age or negative thoughts, it simply means looking out for the well-being and health and safety of an individual. A simple word to describe what we all would want if we were unable to care for ourselves.

By:  Angela E Gifford
Posted:  3 Jul 2013

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