Our older citizens deserve mental stimulation rather than isolation

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Image:  The Apples and Honey Nightingale nursery in London is the first of its kind in the UK, providing care for toddlers and older people

By VIEW editor Brian Pelan

Let’s be honest. Most of us would prefer not to end up in a nursing home.

A mental image of spending our final days in a chair in a nursing home, far away from home, can haunt our imagination as we grow older. This often persists despite the best efforts of care providers to portray a different experience.

We also collectively get a shudder every time we hear that a nursing home has been forced to shut its doors because of unsafe practices.

The shift from public to private has had an effect with some providers running a very lean operation in order to maximise profits.

Our family structure is often not equipped to deal with the complex challenges posed when a loved one becomes dependant on us once a medical situation arrives such as dementia.

The fortunate will be cared for at home but the pressures involved can take a huge toll on the carer.

On top of this a series of seemingly unending health cuts has left the care sector struggling to cope.

And yet some times a solution of sorts is staring us in the face.

A care home in south London has decided to open a nursery adjacent to its older people facility.

The Apples and Honey Nightingale nursery, run by founder Judith Ish-Horowicz, is the first of its kind in the UK. The concept of intergenerational care began in 1976 when a nursery school and a care home were combined in Tokyo. Since then, there have been successful schemes across Europe, Australia and the US. In Singapore, the government has committed £1.7bn to initiatives to improve ageing in the country, including 10 new intergenerational housing developments.

We also have the example of a Dutch nursing home which runs a programme providing free rent to university students in exchange for 30 hours a month of their time – “acting as neighbours” with elderly residents.

“It’s about bringing people together,” says Stephen Burke, director of the organisation United for All Ages. “By getting people talking to each other, you break down some of the barriers and challenge some of the stereotypes, particularly around ageism, dementia and other conditions affecting older people. We see this having benefits for all generations.”

We should all strive to create a future where our older citizens live in a climate of mental stimulation rather than isolation.

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