Equipped with hanging baskets and benches outside and comfortable chairs inside, the sign over the door read ‘Over 60s Rest Room’. I grabbed my mother’s arm with glee.
I assured her that we could go in for her to have a rest if she felt the need; that if the day was too tiring I could always install her in one of those comfortable-looking armchairs with a paper while I did the shopping.
I was rewarded with a glare. But she did agree to pose for photos outside.
‘Put them on your Facebook profile,’ I suggested.
Then the utter absurdity of the situation fully hit home. My mother is 64. She works full time and has a far better social life than her daughter. And she’s definitely more computer literate than me.
Yet she’s categorised as a pensioner, as someone eligible to go and sit down in what was formerly designated as an ‘Old Folks’ Rest Room’, as the plaque behind the hanging basket said.
Yet we do it all the time. We scrabble frantically through the dictionary to find the right term to use – do we call older people just that – older? Or does it smack of comparison – wouldn’t ‘seniors’ be better? But that sounds a bit like ‘senile’, doesn’t it?
Let’s think of another word. ‘Elderly’ used to be fine but then we have to define when it starts. I wouldn’t dare apply it to my mother.
We score people’s likelihood of developing pressure ulcers based on their age, we make assumptions and we pigeonhole them according to category.
Nursing has always aimed to individualise care – but how far do we succeed?
Arabella Sinclair-Penwarden is a newly qualified staff nurse
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