Working with older people is a privilege

By Leon A Smith
November 30, 2010

Another fascinating day at Nightingale with a visit on Friday from David Baddiel. It’s amazing how generous busy people can be with their time. David kindly schlepped across London to be with a group of Nightingale residents – average age 89 with many of them in their 90’s. He spoke to them in a totally non patronizing way about his background, his work, football and the World Cup, his novels and film.

To speak in a “non patronizing” way to a group of people in their late 80’s/90’s might seem an odd observation to make. But it’s surprising how many people see older people as being in some way stigmatized as if old age in itself is a disease or possibly an infectious one! Just because people are old it does not mean to say that they have no interest in any of the “stuff” that is happening out there which will be associated with younger people – films, football, novels.

Nightingale’s residents who also enjoyed a visit earlier last week from Michael Palin are a sophisticated, enquiring group of people who were very much interested in what both our guest speakers last week had to say. It’s surprising how many of us when talking to a group of older people may be tempted to talk v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y or to shout v-e-r-y l-o-u-d-l-y. That’s because we perceive that many older people are hard of hearing. Many of them are but some of them are not. The challenge for us is to treat people as individual personalities not to herd older people together as a group. The challenge facing Nightingale and other care providers is for all of our staff to have a sufficient insight into the importance of doing this. Nightingale is committed to an ongoing extensive training programme around this very subject for all of its staff.

For many people working with older people in itself is stigmatized. For me it’s a privilege. It may be clichéd but the fact is that coming in to contact on a day to day basis with this group of people who have been through so much in their lives, who have so much knowledge, wisdom and experience is simply fascinating. It’s important that society recognizes that working with a group of people in their 80s and 90s that have been through so much is indeed a privilege and it is equally important that we de-stigmatise the role of the carer which is currently not held in the highest esteem by society. We all have a role to play in increasing the status of the carer on whom we are and will be so dependent in our old age.

Many of our carers at Nightingale are as inspirational as the people for whom they care.

Best wishes for a Happy Chanukah!



Tue, 11/30/2010 - 12:12

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Leon, you are doing God's work. Many thanks. Happy Chanucah.


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