Old age – what a depressing subject…Listed on April 9, 2014 in Blogs!
There was a piece in The Times yesterday (9 April) about the dangers and the under-reporting of depression in older people. The source of the story was Dr James Warner who is the Chairman of the Old Age Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He has been researching and writing about this for some years although why it should suddenly make headlines yesterday heaven only knows. Although I would never claim to be an expert on these matters, I too have been writing and speaking about this subject ever since a government report concluded something similar to Dr Warner. The report, entitled ‘Mental Capital and Wellbeing – making the most of ourselves in the 21st century’ was published in 2008. It stated that amongst other things like diet and exercise, learning throughout life was crucially important. Indeed, Professor Sir John Beddington, then the Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, confidently told John Humphries on Radio 4’s Today programme that learning was the most important thing older people can do to stave of mental incapacity in later life. When you think about it, becoming depressed serious inhibits you in all sorts of ways. You cease to become interested in things – even yourself, you lose the desire to do things and your flame goes out. It is the most dangerous of conditions because essentially you give up. Getting medical help in such circumstances is crucial but so is the support that families and communities once provided. Difficult to do in the busy social diaspora we live in today. In an Age of Austerity it is all too easy to forget the quiet desperation of those living with depression in older age. Cuts to public services all over the place increase the risks to older people especially those without the means to buy themselves help or the opportunities available – including those at Dillington or similar. As a society we must recognise that the issue identified by Dr Warner will not go away nor will it diminish over time. The demographics say the opposite. We have been warned.