By Leon A Smith
December 7, 2010
As a child and in my teens I often used to fantasise/project forward to being an adult. One of the things that I used to dream about in the 1950s and 1960s was what “…..what would it be like celebrating the year 2000? “ It seemed lifetimes away! In a perverse sort of way I have experienced this feeling again this week but in a rather more negative way – England will not be hosting the World Cup in 2018. And indeed England will not be hosting the World Cup until the very earliest 2030 and probably not then! Now, it’s difficult for me to project that far ahead because I might not be around!
Yet how does it feel to somebody who is already in their 80s, 90s or 100s when they hear talk of a project being completed in 20 years time or of an event taking place in 15 years time – when there is a very good likelihood that that person is simply not going to be around.
I would imagine that when reaching that age one very much has to “live for today” and not for tomorrow every year knowing that if you are in your 90s or 100s that when you celebrate your birthday it may be your last. That is why we at Nightingale attach so much importance to enhancing the quality of life of our residents every day. Increasing frailty, memory loss, depression, seeing one’s peers dying is not a whole lot of fun! That’s why we believe that we need to give a purpose in life – a raison d’etre to all of our residents.
Many people at Nightingale occupy themselves in our Activities Centre, perhaps learning in their mid-90s how to do pottery for the very first time. Why not? The facilities are there. The tutors are there. Why not give it a go? And guess what – many of our residents have a huge amount of latent talent that they never even knew that they had simply because they never had the time or facilities to express themselves creatively. We offer a range of entertainments – many of them musical, and indeed many residents attend classical music recitals at Nightingale, who have never been exposed to this before, and suddenly find a love of classical music. This week’s concert with students from the Yehudi Menuhin School of young virtuosos will be packed to the rafters by our residents.
All of this does have a relevance. Many people coming into care homes are largely dependent on support from local authorities yet in the main local authorities would never be interested in supporting somebody in a care home because they maybe lonely, isolated and/or lack the kind of stimulation which I have mentioned above. Many local authorities would prefer to support somebody living in their own home simply because they would perceive this as being a cheaper option – taking no account of these factors.
Needing to come into a care home is not only about physical needs – it’s about emotional and intellectual needs as well. It’s a great shame this is not recognised more widely as there are many people living in our community who could benefit from living in a vibrant environment such as that which I have described at Nightingale but are precluded from doing so due to the lack of understanding or support from some local authorities.