“The way the pandemic was managed in nursing homes is indicative of the place we give to older persons in our society, or rather of the place we do not give them, of the uselessness in which they have been ‘confined’”
Anne Jaumotte, Project Manager at AGE Belgian member organisation, Enéo
In an interview for the Belgian French-speaking radio La Première, Anne Jaumotte from Enéo looks at the situation in residential care homes in Belgium and how we see ageing in our societies. She insists that one’s old age needs to be planned, well prepared ahead of retirement, but we tend not to do so because of our overall negative perception of ageing.
“Anticipation, thinking about ageing, is something we don’t do because we are in a society that is always on the move, that moves fast, where you have to perform and stay young at all costs. So you don’t want to think about your old age”.
Ageing is not a disease!
Ageing tends to be shown through pathologies, while it is not a disease, but a stage in one’s life like any other, reminds Enéo’s delegate. Although the issue of care is important, “if you only look at the patient, you don’t see the person behind the resident, or you don’t see him or her anymore, you forget him or her”.
Yet, our society is ageing, and “it is urgent to ask ourselves how we are going to live in a society where the over-80s will soon account for more than 30% of the population”.
A family debate
Ms Jaumotte reminds that there are other ways of living in old age than in residential care homes, referring to senior or intergenerational shared housing, or the possibility of making a ‘twin loan’, which allows you to adapt parts of your house to accommodate a parent.
This issue should be discussed within families, although she acknowledges that “it is a difficult subject to talk about because it brings us back to our own death, when we’re not in a life where death has its place”.
Rethinking our care policy
Ms Jaumotte concluded by pointing out the lack of convergence and collaboration between care services and policies, and the urgent need for a comprehensive ageing policy.
The pandemic has further stressed the urgency to rethink housing models for older people, starting with the needs and motivations of the older persons themselves. The care home model is reaching its limits and is only one possibility among others that needs to be reinvented within a broader accomodation and care system.