Under the biomedical paradigm of health and disease, the definition of old age is primarily concerned with the biological aspects and is therefore associated with the individual’s physical and mental deterioration (ireversible and until death). However, the sociocultural concept of old age depends on the time, context, culture and socio-political organization models.
Looking back over history we see that the concept of aging has been used based on cultural and socio-political events, from positive to negative visions, and vice versa. For example, in prehistoric tribes, when survival was a challenge, the elder were seen as an important community asset. In other cultures they were a symbol of wisdom and because of their experience, they had a role of counselor and youth educator. In Europe’s Classical Greece there is a significant shift and old age comes to be seen as a punishment, since nothing can be further from perfection and beauty that senility. It was also attributed a negative connotation in V to X centuries where elders were considered weak and vulnerable: old age is a divine punishment for the sins of man.
Today, with the influence of techno-scientific culture, old people drift away from modern knowledge and lose their cultural transmitter role. In addition, other changes have radicalized their current situation: fast-changing values, entry of women into the labor force, urbanization, reduction of housing and family size, family disruption… And though perhaps this is not history’s least favorable time for the elder, that does not mean it’s not upgradeable and food for thought.
Thanks to improved sanitation and hygiene, working conditions, medical resources, etc, population in the neotechnological societies rises, people over 85 being the fastest growing demographic group (the “fourth age”). For example, in 2020, warned the Paramericana Health Organization (affiliated to WHO) a few years ago in Cuba, we’ll have twice the number of old people (in absolute terms) as in 2000.
Accepting that terms such as dependency, disability and impairment go hand in hand with old age, we must admit we are facing a real economic, social and health problem. For many of those planning organizational models for older people, reflection focuses on improving the quality of life of the elderly living in nursing homes (organization of weekly trips, socio-cultural activities) and their relationship with the health care team (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, etc). Many of these interventions, however, focus on optimizing advertising leaflets in order to increase their customer volume, rather than solve their human needs.
So paradoxes as given: creating scheduled communication spaces while the rest of the day people are just locked in their rooms plugged into a TV; physical activity sessions combined with mandatory immobiliztion the rest of the day; participation in workshops to facilitate personal autonomy while deprived of time to monitor the process on a day to day… Others, however , see a market full of opportunities : service agencies , pharmaceutical , political parties who want to earn the vote of the elderly … for them the debate is directly influenced by profitability and benefit calculations .
But not everyone has the financial ability to afford such luxury. Many working-class families are taking care of their grandparents, adding the problem of caring for caregivers . And make no mistake, when we say that the family takes care of the person we are talking to women, who over the centuries have taken care of both children and the elderly. Some see their incorporation into the labor market as a release , but is there really such release without a change of roles in the domestic front ? And not only that , is it a real release competitiveness laws assume that capitalism brings and combine it with the housework?
Some people also believe that education is essential to the old life and to face death. However, other cultures perform rituals cheerful face and not as a threat but as a culmination of the cycle of life. Maybe we should ask ourselves what we are afraid of losing . Empty ? , Obedient and a materialistic life? The end of the possibility that “maybe tomorrow “? Just be adults who need an education to regain a more human values. Maybe we should focus on reversing this as disruptive or non-existent relationship …
Intergenerational inequality and exclusion appear to be purely anthropological terms domain. Much of the public has legitimized the ability to decide on the future of their elders and therefore themselves, at the hands of the professionals (read: ministers , physicians, psychologists , etc … ) rather than raise a self-reflection and organization active in the nearest field . While in the course of history the care of the elderly lived in family hands , today has delegated that responsibility to private entities and public institutions under essentially economic arguments without questioning if its high cost, its effectiveness (assuming there is one) and dependence are generating the most beneficial solution to these elders, their immediate environment and the global population .
Again make up on the acceptance of tax systems as a social solution must thank . Consider, for starters, the objectives of current health policies, if cuestionémonos meet our real needs and then we discuss the possibilities of implementing a new imaginary .
According to a 2011 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD ) , the average internal people in care homes and nursing homes or receiving health care in member countries is 2.3 %. If you look at Norway , considered by the United Nations country with the highest Human Development Index in 2013 , we see that this figure is 3.9 %, which represents an investment of 2.2% of GNP.
If we consider only the economic analysis of the figures should not surprise phrases like the Japanese Finance Minister , who referred to the old saying that ” the problem will not be solved unless we stop them to hurry up and die ” . Indeed , assume the dependence of so many people is not profitable. Keeping this view , the ” Panorama of pensions 2013 ” OECD announced that policies are being carried out to address the aging population include increasing the minimum years of contributions for a full pension, and the implementation of annual revaluation of pensions , ie reduction. This argument recommends such changes meet with private pension plans .
We must ask whether other measures to deal with this reality by adding to the more humanist perspectives based on cooperation and mutual support , in addition to more economic efficiency , intergenerational relationships facilitate economic analysis. To this end he was born ” Homeshare ‘, a network that connects older people who want to share their accommodation in exchange for cooperation in housework, providing a cheaper housing younger people . A great idea that risk can be commodified .
Last 2012 , European active aging and intergenerational solidarity , the French group ” ensemble2generations ” who are responsible for managing and regulating HomeShare in France , the year he won the 1st European Award for Social Entrepreneurship . This collective , despite being a Christian initiative , makes a huge task of facilitating people of any origin, culture or confession. But it is not a free service and is managed by the user. There are fees for both staying hosters to 40 € for a visit of the space offered , € 10 . Also fill out the form to register and access the exchange must deliver a long list of official documents and be selected in an application that includes aspects such as income or education, with which lead not only to exercise control over who has access to it but also to create distinctions and privileges between them. .
Another form of shared life that began in the late 60’s in Denmark is the ‘ Cohousing ‘. Cohousing communities consist of private homes and community spaces designed and governed by the residents themselves, who undertake to perform various common activities while the economy is individual . Decisions are made in assemblies , so there is no hierarchical structure. The weak point in terms of autonomy and sustainability of communities is that the income of the residents mostly come from outside .
There are villages and communities that go a little further, as the former ” Project A ” in Neustadt , Germany. The idea was an intergenerational community that had 25 adults and 15 children , between 5 and 75 years. On the basis of personal trust , closeness and mutual support created a charity to assist people struggling to pay a modest rent of flatshare background, communes and individual apartments because not all engaged in economically productive work . The same rule applied in other fields and collective projects : financial resources projects profitably reinvested in projects without market value or politicians. Such was the case of the elderly, which was given without supporting economic benefit in return (thus the so-called ” plan B ” was born, to cope with the aging members of the community). Unfortunately , there was an error in the calculation of the cost of modernizing the building that made them resell decant and the project came to an end.
All these organizational forms are powerful weapons for personal and collective empowerment if based on horizontality and work through participatory processes dependent solely on its participants, ie, without the figure of an external contractor to obtain an economic benefit from it. And this may be one of the solutions to the situation , both financially and on a more human level . It can be as simple as organizing networks of mutual support, similar to those mentioned above, managed by the members themselves, who can create jobs and meet human needs. Thus the burden of keeping the cost of management and can invest more resources in the support of people who require it is removed , which is also reflected in the increase in jobs. Moreover, the fact of maintaining the social role of the elderly, intimate spaces , contact with the movement of the world , etc … will make your physical and mental activity does not cease to be stimulated and, therefore, will be more gradual deterioration. Rather than isolate the elderly and working long hours to pay for this service, we can choose autoorganizarnos small – medium scale based on common sense, respect and mutual support, networking and inter and intergenerational communities that generate and develop its economy by internal services.
Imagine organizational models outside the bureaucracy and control of those who obey companies governed by economic parameters (banks, pharmaceutical, political parties … ). Let us be ambitious. This article seeks to open a space for individual and collective reflection to generate proposals applicable to the everyday realities of people who are responsible for their personal and community life.
Furthermore, if we accept that health, age , education, food , energy … can not be separated or protocolized , we open the door to forms of collective organization which feedback and self-sufficient so that they can live outside the capitalist system. Do not let the study and development of our capabilities in the hands of professionals who dominate methods of analysis and fundamentals epistemiológicos left out the people involved. We serve our personal experiences and opinions , without distinction of age or of any kind, to build the world we dream.
Anna Pallarés Pascual