Monthly Archives: August 2014

To Boldly Go: Old Age – the final frontier?

We’ve been watching that programme about Boomers on the tv. I’m a Baby Boomer. When I was wee my comics were full of visions of a future in which we flew round in space ships, wore silver suits and had pills for breakfast. Up there above us were new worlds and different cultures, ripe for exploration just like in DR Who, Star Trek and Lost in Space. Those programmes fuelled our imaginations.

We watched rockets with dogs, chimps and humans fire off into the night sky and saw grainy pictures of people bouncing on the moon. Nothing was impossible, no barrier was unsurmountable, no feat of endeavour was unachievable.

That spirit of adventure and possibilities has stayed with us Boomers. We challenged gender roles, class barriers, racism and even gravity and now we’re challenging the ageing process. As my generation heads towards our later golden years, we’re still smashing through barriers and pushing the limits.  Rockstars are still rocking into their 70s.  Runners still running into their 90s and beyond. Punks are still cerise and spiky haired, no blue rinse and pinnie for us, we’re in short skirts, skinny jeans and high heels.

It’s a fabulous energy to live with, full of hope and derring do, so different to our parents’ lives in many ways.

I know I’m not alone in wondering how on earth  care services are going to cope with a whole load of white haired Boomers who are used to having choices, used to being independent. We expect to be able to go outside and see our friends. We expect to be physically and socially active, to listen to our choice in music, to watch what we want, to eat what we choose when we choose, to do things that some folk might think are a bit risky. It’s not just the numbers of us that needs some thought, we’re different in every which way. And we’re just the tip of the iceberg, generations after us will have their own expectations and foibles too. The whole care system is going to have to keep on changing and responding ad infinitum.

The challenge is massive but exhilarating. If services begin to cope with us boomers then they will be on a journey of change that will help generations to come. Self Directed Support will, when it’s had time to bed in, help give us choice and control of our later years, helping to match the diversity of people. Social media and digital technology will help us stay in touch with our friends and keep us entertained. We’ll expect to be up to date with news and digital developments. We’ll want to tune in and switch on.

Some of the bits of the complicated jigsaw are in pace already – thought nowhere near bedded in. Person centred approaches will help us be seen as unique individuals with aspirations and hopes regardless of our age. Self directed support will help us be consumers, clients and shapers of decisions that affect our lives, help us keep in control. Assets based working will help folk see we have lots to give, rich networks and skills and capabilities, we are not helps needy old folk. It’s going to talk time to get all the bits in place and working, and massive culture change. I can see it already in the Day Centres and my Mum’s Care Home. Activity Coordinators are now becoming the norm not an added luxury and my Mum is doing things now she’d never done before. But I worry about how we will tackle the inequalities between those of us who have a lifetime of being the ‘haves’ and those who have had a lifetime of being the ‘have nots’. We’ll be fighting injustice and inequality to the end I think.

Change rarely happens smoothly and us Boomers may well have to do a bit of complaining and protesting to get change to happen. We’re up for that! We’ve marched, boycotted, gone on strike and protested in many many ways to tell the world that things need to change, I can’t imagine we’ll stop yet – there’s life in the old Boomers yet!

So watch out as Bay Boomers tackle the (almost) final frontier – old age. As ever we’ll be going boldly.

Take Care







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An (accessible) room and a kettle



It really doesn’t take very much to change the world. All you need is a cause, a room and a kettle and anything can happen.  It’s that simple; find a way to bring folk together in common cause and things will never be the same again.

It’s certainly working for us in East Lothian where we’ve now got 3 Dementia Friendly conversations up and running and more hoping to start off too. These conversations are changing things, though as befits a complex messy world, it’s not happening in a simple linear way!

As we get more experience, a pattern is emerging and I’m starting to relax and trust the process. First find your passion, something that really matters to you and you want to do something about. Then find people who care about the same issue and also want to make things happen. Share your dreams widely and freely. Talk to people in the streets, in shops, as you go about your daily business, if they’re interested you’ll soon tell. If it looks like a go-er, start planning; bring the wider community in, talk about what each individual can do to make things change. Find your room, make a date and get that kettle on.

images-2Those of us who truly believe that if we build it, they will come, know exactly what I’m talking about. This is about creating a community field of dreams. It starts with enthusiasm, passion, vision – they act like magnets, provide a coordinating principle, a centre of gravity – pick you imagery to suit.

At first it can seem a bit disorganised and scary. You can’t set up much of an agenda because every conversation is unique and has to go its own way. The usual ways of running meetings don’t work and there are no formal rules or procedures. But the coming together of people to change the world has an order of its own. Gatherings have to be value based – mutual respect and listening really matter. Gatherings have to have a purpose, even if that takes time to emerge. Conversations have be facilitated and structured so that everyone can contribute in some way or another, so they flow, evolve and progress into action.

Plans slowly begin to crystallise, we start talking about how to bring others into our discussions, they bring new ideas, new contacts, new resources. Conversations are rooted in our local community, our local people, our local places, our local issues. They are real and meaningful and grounded in the reality of places and people.

Someone’s on a group that’s working to improve the High Street, maybe we could integrate some dementia friendly thinking in at an early stage. And this is the perfect time because that’d help everyone and save costly mistakes. Someone else is developing a new service which would fit so well for people with dementia with just a small tweak or two, with a bit of training they think they could make a big difference here. What if the Youth Project and the Day Centre got together to organise a music event, that would be really special and would help build understanding and friendships across the community.

We start to talk about how to take things a bit further, we get ambitious. A chat with someone who works with the schools so we can reach more young people and hear what they think about getting older in their community. A group passionate about physical activity gets together to look at how we can remove barriers.  Local organisations and services offer us rooms we can use for meetings and help with printing. We organise a community event to bring everyone together and involve the Business Association. We work out the big things that we can’t do ourselves and find someone to help us. 

Several years ago a wise friend said that if we wanted to make the vision of the Christie Commission a reality we had to find out what makes change happen. It’s oh so clear to me now. People make change happen. I make change happen. You make change happen. We make change happen.  Changing the world doesn’t start with systems and processes;  you can’t change the world just by putting the word in a job description, If it was that easy. we’d all have done it years ago.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and Dementia Friendly East Lothian is making change happen. Small changes will make big differences, but we need to address the big things too if we are to ensure we get the services and communities that we want and need.  

How far can we get? We don’t know yet, we’re not even thinking about limitations, we’re being positive. In the words of another wise friend, we’ll proceed until apprehended.

And all made by people with just a kettle and a room. #GODO




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