In the shoes of…an older person (Tweeting from the Later Life conference)

Whose Shoes? Copyright Nutshell Communications Ltd. All Rights reserved.

I attended the “Later Life” conference at the Barbican Centre in London last week. It was a great event with some impressive speakers. As always, however, I was looking to cut through the hype and be “in the shoes” of real people – in this case an older person …how does it feel to be growing old in Britain today?

In the introduction there was a mention, in passing, to a “hashtag” for the event but I don’t think it was very serious. I seemed to become the official “tweeter” and felt a bit sheepish texting on my phone (especially as I am not very quick) but I had a small Twitter army urging me on.

All this felt very strange in comparison to a recent “Local by Social” (social media) event I attended in Coventry where a wide range of “tweeters” gave a rich on-the-spot coverage of the day. Even better, the Carers UK conference had a live link whereby people who could not attend could listen and join the debate. I wonder how long it will take for this to become “mainstream” – especially for events where, by definition, the main contributors (carers, the elderly) often find it impossible to attend in person?

Anyway, back to the Later Life conference. There was a lot of  rousing talk “Older people deserve every opportunity to age well within supportive communities”…”we need a joined up approach”…”we need to be committed to stay the distance despite huge challenges”…”together we can achieve great things”…

But I much preferred the ditties…What would make a difference to my life as an older person?

  •  An 85+ study found that many people are happy and doing well at 85+, demonstrating the moving boundary of old age. “Is 85 the new 70?” – yes, from the people I know, I think so.
  •  The vanity that can sometimes accompany old age –  not wanting to use a stick in case it makes you “look old” but risking breaking a hip by an unnecessary fall…d’oh .. this could be me!
  •  The negative stereotyping of old people, brought alive by one delegate saying (to huge applause) “I’m 75 and I’ll sing and dance better than any 16 year old”. She suggested that , if you want to be like her, it is better to have a workout in the gym in your lunch hour than eat that other sandwich!
  •  A quote from Eubie Blake on his 100th birthday “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”

As for good practice, I was very impressed by a partnership between NHS Wirral and Eldercare (less impressed by their name, which felt very dated and out of touch). The session looked at how to embed assistive technology (AT) in personalisation. The key message was that AT should be integral and not marginal in helping older people maintain and regain independence. I liked the way that, instead of prescribing “solutions”, they encouraged older people to “tell their story”. They then worked together to see how their identified support needs could best be met – who? how? etc, rather than pre-empting the outcome. They used technology in creative ways as part of a holistic approach, rather than a “one size fits all” mentality.

I liked the example of the older guy helped with a device to tend his runner beans – this could have been my Dad, just struggling a bit and needing a bit of help to carry on doing the things that were important to him. Shock! Horror! Probe! – there is no tick box on the form that says “Supply runner bean tending device!”

There was a lot of talk about how to quantify the benefits of AT and the difference between “avoidable expenses” and “cashable efficiencies”. I left this to others – I just had a nice picture of my late father tending his beans in the sunshine…

The highlight of the event was a very refreshing talk by Professor Heinz Wolff, aged 82 AND THREE QUARTERS (shades of Adrian Mole). He announced that it was a good job he was speaking at the end of the conference as otherwise everyone would have disagreed with him. He shared his “big idea” that the current system, due to lack of money and demographic changes, was totally unsustainable. Society needed to introduce a care bank – you care for others when you are younger and then you “cash” your credits when you need support yourself. Simple. (Or not?)

He talked about “errorists” (politicians making persistent mistakes) being more dangerous than terrorists. Engaging and thought-provoking, Professor Wolff  certainly brought the day alive and provided a wonderful example of a man in his eighties living life to the full with intelligence, wit and a glint in his eye!

The day concluded with the usual “experts panel” – six men debating a range of issues, including gender bias in social care… more women at the bottom echelons and more men at the top…

I rest my case.

My thanks to Jade Jones, and the PSCA team for a very thought-provoking and well organised event.

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About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives. http://nutshellcomms.co.uk
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One Response to In the shoes of…an older person (Tweeting from the Later Life conference)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention In the shoes of…an older person (Tweeting from the Later Life conference) | Whose Shoes? -- Topsy.com

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