Posts Tagged ‘ageing’

Mysteries of male elderhood: testosterone, presence and purpose.

Oct 15 2014

 When I turned sixty in 2008, I set a clear intent of moving into elderhood, growing beyond my prevailing warrior-hero approach to life. Six years on, I can report good progress but further mysteries.

 For most of my adult life, I have been a happy workaholic: drawn to situations where I had lots of challenge and responsibility, working in a state of high adrenalin which gave purpose and structure to my life, and paved over the murky depths beneath.

Not the best answer to falling testosterone

Not the best answer to falling testosterone

 All this has been dissolving and under scrutiny since I turned 50. I have made numerous descents into the murky depths, sometimes just falling in, sometimes an orderly visit properly equipped with a therapist. I aim to be friends with the early wounds and neurotic habits which still thrash around in those depths: I don’t believe they ever disappear, but an elder has their measure.

 A major part of moving into elderhood for me is at work: instead of being a manic prime mover, I am really trying to change my habits, working collaboratively, enabling others, offering a wise presence and holding the space, instead of rushing in. I’m achieving this quite a lot of the time, but… it’s not very exciting.

 I recently found an excellent medical herbalist, Nick Hudis, who specialises in the health issues of older men. In a recent consultation, I described myself as having low energy, moral and libido. Nick gently observed, “Sounds like low testosterone: nothing’s exciting any more?”

 Nick went on to say “This is why it’s so important for older men to have a sense of purpose. Otherwise they become couch potatoes.” Absolutely, and plumbing the murky depths, and other great stuff eloquently laid out in my book, Out of the Woods: A Guide to Life for Men Beyond 50. What my book covers less well is this issue about the lack of excitement. Part of this is biological fact: men’s testosterone levels do decline with age. But the chat with Nick got me thinking positively about better ways to handle all this.

 So here are four tips I’m finding helpful:

  • Mindfulness: focus on the breath and sensations of the body, to reduce the power of negative thoughts and feelings.
  • Ration your media: limit your intake of mainstream news and ads to what you can happily cope with. Too much of this can shred your attention span, raise your craving for distractions, and sap your ability to be present.
  • Be tremendously present: whether you’re making love or making sandwiches, this helps. Imagine this is your first moment in life, in a body: every moment is potentially exciting.
  • Reconnect with purpose often: if you don’t feel a sense of purpose, seek it or ask to be shown it. Bathe in you sense of purpose often: enjoy it, value it. For each of us to believe that our purpose and presence makes a difference is crucial in these times.

 I feel very blessed with worthwhile work projects, a superb marriage and family : enjoying all this as an elder may have less adrenalin, but it has huge potential richness.

by Alan Heeks

NHS ageism ‘stopping elderly getting cancer treatment’

Dec 18 2013

Widespread ageism throughout the NHS means elderly cancer patients are sometimes being written off as “too old for treatment”, doctors and nurses have admitted.

About half of those surveyed in an ICM poll (48 per cent) said they thought “stereotypes and assumptions” about older people were resulting in some patients not getting the best treatment for cancer.

A similar proportion (45 per cent) said they had dealt with a cancer patient who had been refused treatment on the grounds of age.

And two-thirds (67 per cent) said they had heard other health workers speaking to older cancer patients in a “condescending or dismissive way”.

The poll of 100 doctors and 55 cancer nurses was conducted for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of the charity, said: “Health professionals’ concerns about the prevalence of age discrimination in cancer care mustn’t be ignored.

“Unless staff are given the time and training to carry out a proper assessment of a patient’s overall physical and mental wellbeing, some patients will be unfairly written-off as “too old” for treatment.

“The right practical support, whether it’s transport or help with caring responsibilities must also be put in place so older people needing treatment can actually take it up.”

He added that the number of people aged 65 and over who were living with cancer was “set to rocket in the next 20 years from 1.3 million to 4.1 million.

“Unless the barriers to timely treatment are tackled now, many older people could die unnecessarily from cancer and services will become unaffordable,” Mr Devane warned.

Macmillan has contributed to a Department of Health report, together with Age UK, detailing the scope of the problem and what needs to be done to rectify it.

It states: “The Government has set out ambitious plans to improve cancer survival rates in England, and it has recognised that it will not deliver on those plans unless it tackles inequalities in terms of access to and outcomes from treatment.”

The report warned that elderly people did not appear to be benefiting from advances in fighting cancer.

“From 1995-97 to 2003-05, cancer mortality rates fell by 16-17 per cent for those under 75, but increased by two per cent in those aged over 85,” it noted.

It added: “There is a growing body of evidence to suggest older patients are less likely to receive the most clinically effective treatment for their cancer.

“Suboptimal treatment can lead to less favourable cancer outcomes, and therefore, may impact negatively on cancer survival rates.”

And it recommended: “To minimise the risk of age discriminatory practice, an objective assessment of an individual’s circumstances and condition should be undertaken, so that treatment recommendations are not made on age based assumptions.

“Chronological age and performance status alone are poor predictors of cancer treatment tolerance and life expectancy.”

It echoes earlier reports. In October the Royal College of Surgeons found that surgery rates for a range of conditions including breast cancer dropped off sharply among the over-70s.

And in February the Department of Health found there was “evidence that older people do not always receive the same standard of cancer treatment as younger patients”.

Besides judging patients on their overall physical and mental state, Mr Devane said that doctors needed to be specifically trained to treat elderly patients.

The NHS also needed to build bridges with charities and social services to better understand what sometimes stopped people taking up treatment.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said: “It is shocking and wrong to deny people treatment just because of their age, which is why we have made it illegal.

“However, we agree that more still needs to be done to improve treatment for cancer patients over 70 – which is why we worked with Macmillan on this report to understand how to address this.”

Few over-65s feel old but half object to ageism – survey BBC

Dec 18 2013

Only 6% of over-65s describe themselves as “old” and only one in three has given serious thought to the care they might need in future, suggests a poll.

More than 2,000 people aged 65-93 were surveyed by YouGov for a firm providing support services for older people.

Almost half of those questioned (47%) complained of ageism.

Concern about being seen as a burden means older people can sometimes fail to make adequate plans, says Invicta Telecare, which commissioned the poll.

The online survey, carried out last month, found that almost two-thirds (62%) were concerned about being seen as a problem by society.

‘Older mindset’

And one in five of those polled (21%) worried about being thought of as a burden to friends and family as they grew older.

The survey also looked at older people’s attitudes to their age. About 63% agreed that being old was just a mindset and refused to define themselves as old.

More than a third (39%) said they were happier than at any time, and 42% described themselves as “more tolerant”.

But 48% said they thought their generation was “ignored”. More than a third (37%) felt treated disrespectfully because of their age.

About 34% complained the word “old” was derogatory, while 27% disliked the word “elderly” and 30% objected to being described as an “OAP”.

The Queen at 87 and Dame Judi Dench at 78 were hailed as positive role models for their generation.

Some 83% agreed that “older people can still make a huge difference to this country”.

‘Freedom and independence’

Official figures indicate that the number of over-65s in the UK is likely to nearly double to around 19m, or a quarter of the population, by 2050 – up from 10m in 2010.

There were three million people aged over 80 in 2010. This figure is expected to reach eight million by 2050.

Wendy Darling of Invicta Telecare said: “It’s important to tackle the old-fashioned taboos that many are coming up against.

“We all need to be prepared to discuss this subject more openly within our families and make sure people get access to the right information and help for them.

“It’s clear many worry they will lose their identity and be seen as a problem as they grow older so it’s important not to underestimate the support out there which will give full control of your freedom and independence.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “Older people play an incredibly important role in society, and are the lynchpins of many families and communities. They should be able to look forward to a happy and healthy old age, without having to face discrimination or catastrophic care costs.

“We are reforming the care system so that people will finally be able to plan for the care they might need in their later years and we’ve banned age discrimination in health and social care, so there is no room for any assumptions about a person’s age.”

John McCririck tribunal panel retires to consider ‘ageism’ verdict

Dec 18 2013

John McCririck legal team sought to cast doubt on the credibility of the evidence given by a senior Channel 4 figure as the hearing into his claim for damages against the broadcaster was brought to a close on Monday. Jay Hunt, the station’s chief creative officer, had told the employment tribunal last week that she had offered a personal apology to Miriam O’Reilly after O’Reilly, dropped as a presenter of Countryfile when Hunt was controller of BBC1, won her ageism claim against the BBC.

John McCririck, the the horse racing pundit, outside the Employment Tribunal

John McCririck, the the horse racing pundit, with his wife Jenny outside the Employment Tribunal in London. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex Features

O’Reilly used Twitter this weekend to deny having received such an apology from Hunt, who had to clarify her evidence on Monday. In a supplemental statement put before the tribunal Hunt said her apology came in a Guardian interview in 2011, when she expressed regret for the distress caused. “I used the phrase personal, not to imply direct contact with Miriam O’Reilly, but to differentiate my response from that of the BBC,” Hunt’s statement said.

The controversy was seized on by Jennifer Eady QC as she made closing submissions on behalf of McCririck, who seeks £3m from Channel 4 and the production company IMG Media. Eady alleged Hunt showed ageism again at the end of last year when deciding McCririck should no longer be part of the broadcaster’s racing output. “How reliable was Jay Hunt as a witness?” Eady asked the tribunal.

“When [she] gave evidence, we went through the O’Reilly case. She was at great pains to keep repeating that she had learned the lessons of that case and she said, ‘I’ve apologised personally to Ms O’Reilly.’

“Is expressing regret a personal apology? Of course not. She sought to give you an impression which, frankly, was misleading. You should bear that in mind when looking for undocumented evidence as to Ms Hunt’s reasons [for axing McCririck].”

Eady noted that Mike Cattermole, Alistair Down, Derek Thompson and Lesley Graham had also been dropped from Channel 4 racing at the end of last year and he pointed out that all were over 50 at the time.

Thomas Linden QC, for Channel 4, said a finding of discrimination against Hunt could not be sustained, as the decision not to use McCririck was taken by the show’s producer, Carl Hicks, in consultation with the station’s sports editor, Jamie Aitchison. Their decision was then presented to Hunt, whose only power would have been to veto it, he said.

Linden argued that the famously brash McCririck fell from favour only because Hicks and Aitchison wanted their programme to be more serious and to have broader appeal. Hunt, he said “had a fundamental objection to the sorts of views the claimant was voicing and the persona he was projecting”.

“Even if you disagree with her … Ms Hunt clearly did not think highly of the claimant. She couldn’t possibly have acted on the grounds of ageism,” Linden said.

McCririck has said that no one from Channel 4 ever asked him to tone down his act, to be less outrageous or sexist. Linden, however, ridiculed the pundit’s complaint that he could have been a much more serious presenter if required.

“He says, had he been told: ‘Be clean shaven and wear a grey suit, please don’t be aggressive with the public or call your colleagues by nicknames,’ then he would have done that … A touch on the tiller, [he] could have been Des Lynam.”

Asked as he emerged from the hearing about his chance of success, McCririck, who says his home is at risk if he loses, replied: “I just don’t know. I always said there would never be evidence in writing of age discrimination … But I think the evidence has been overwhelming.

“I’m not an emotional man [but] the feeling from the public, my colleagues, the messages I’m getting … People come up to me in the street and say, John, go and win the case, good for you. I feel like crying.

“I think this is a very, very important case. There are people from their 30s to their 70s, the anonymous suits and skirts come in and they get rid of them because they want youthful people in their organisation.”

Judge Alison Lewzey, chair of the tribunal panel, said deliberations would begin this week with the aim of issuing a decision “within a reasonable time”. Those with experience of such cases suggested that a result might be expected in mid-November.

The Guardian

How valuing friends makes twilight years the happiest

Dec 16 2013

As people grow old they become cantankerous, grumpy and generally unhappy with their lot in life, according to popular portrayal.

Older people 'value friends more'
Far from the Victor Meldrew stereotype, those in their twilight years are actually happier than younger people  because they have learnt the value of a true friend.

People who value their friendships report having happier lives and the older we get the more we value our frends, the Office for National Statistics found.

Overall, just three in five people aged over 16 said they valued having friends, but this rose continually for the over 50s to more than four in five among the over-70s, the ONS survey of happiness found.

Four in five of those aged 50 or over who felt they were part of their community were also happy with their lives, compared with just half of those who did not.

Paul Green, of Saga, said as people enter old age they no longer cherish material possesions so much and instead focus on what really matters. “Life experience tells you that friends are more important and necessary than mere possessions,’ he said.

“Rather than valuing that new car and the other trinkets and baubles you build up the things that are important are the friends.

“Not only are they good company, but they remain with you through time as well.”

Mr Green went on: “What life tells us is that lots of things in this life are transitory.

“But the friends that you build up from school or work stick with you – it’s the friends and family who support you and give life that richness.

The ONS added: “Friends are part of a person’s support system and, unlike family, are chosen by the individual.

“They may often give advice on decisions and are companions in life who share interests and can be confided in.”

Feeling a part of a local community was also key to happiness, the official report on national well-being in older people’s neighbourhoods found.

Some seven in 10 people aged 50 to 54 felt they were part of their local community, but this rose to more than four in five among those aged 70 or over.

This compared with a national average for everyone over 16 of just two in three.

Mr Green said: “Older people tend to be more stable, they move around less frequently, and are likely to build and develop more connections with their communities.

“It’s a question of time as well.

“They might work part time so choose to do things which they might not necessarily get paid for, but in which they have an interest.

“They have a stronger stake in society and the area where they live and are more likely to be active in the community.”

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, added: “We know that feeling you belong in a neighbourhood can have a positive effect on a person’s health and wellbeing.

“Older people say they value easy access to a Post Office or a bank, good local transport networks, public seating, safe and well-lit streets and public toilets.

“Having these things in place would make life better for older people and promote their wellbeing.”

Dame Joan Bakewell, who was appointed as a voice for older people by Gordon Brown, agreed they often regarded friends as more precious and valuable than younger adults.

“The ones who are left you tend to cherish more because you’re not far from the end of your life so you value every day and every contact,” she said.

“As you get near the end of life you do regard it as more precious because it’s running out at such a rate, so you do value things that you once took for granted.

“You say to somebody, ‘Wasn’t it nice that evening we went to the restaurant’, whereas young people don’t bother to say that; they say, ‘what are we doing tonight?’ or whatever, so things become very precious as you get older, which is not a bad thing.”

The 79-year-old broadcaster also suggested older people valued friendships more after leaving the social lives they had while working.

“We’re social creatures and we need to inter-relate with people,” she said.

“We do it automatically going to work on the tube and the bus, even if we don’t like it we’re interacting with people.

“When you’re at home and if you’re retired and on your own, or there’s just two of you, you really miss that, so you join the golf club or the bowls – whatever you do you come together with other people.”

Dame Joan added that older people also tended to like each other’s company “because the world of the young becomes increasingly mysterious and obviously one doesn’t have any play in the Justin Bieber world of pop music so you tend to come together as a persecuted majority”.

“You relish each other’s company for good reason,” she said.