Danny Buckland writes about the lack of research into older people who have a combination of a number of illnesses, referred to as co-morbidities. He talks about a fact that has long been known to those of us who work with older people – we are living longer - but, by definition, our extra years are not spent as lively and active 40 year olds – they are spent in their 80s and beyond, often having a level of ill health that can make life far from pleasant.
Danny talks about the research underway which looks at what happens to our cells as we age (senescence) and he also talks about some of the exciting new work which aims to use the science of genetics to reduce the clinical complications of old age.
In the meantime, Danny makes the point that we should be encouraging healthy living for all ages and balancing the financial investment into preventing or curing the age related, multiple diseases with investigating what society can do to improve life in general for older people.
The Times also carried a letter last week where a very satisfied client of a live-in care service stressed how the company had successfully allowed both her father and her husband to end their days comfortably and safely in their own home.
Live-in care, properly managed, delivered by trusted, well trained and loving carers, really is a more cost-effective option than most Care Homes and it allows nature to take its course at its own pace - whilst providing dignity and comfort to people who are not as well as they used to be.
We need to accept that people at both ends of their lives need support, love and comfort. We need to take pride in providing “care and support”. Of course we must continue with medical research: of course we must continue to influence social policy. It is not, however, until we change the mind-set that old age (whatever that may be) equals dependence and problems to one which celebrates the success that medical science ( and social policy ) has delivered, will we harness the financial and intellectual capacity needed to conduct this vital research.