Travel has a way of bringing things home.
One day in October I woke up in Dublin, 48 years old, and therefore being in Ireland a middle aged man. By the time went to sleep that night in South Africa, an odd “miracle” made me a very old man indeed.
It’s not the travel that caused this, but the life expectancy of the people around me. I’ve noted in talks how growing inequality in life expectancy between countries will affect migration patterns, but it’s intense to embody that experience.
I was a guest of the inaugural South African Care Forum Festival in Stellenbosch, settled in the awe-inspiring landscape north of Cape Town. I’d travelled there at the invitation of two extraordinary people, Rayne Stroebel and Margie Van Zyl who together established the SA Care Forum, supported by Geratec.
They’d attracted fantastic speakers, many from Australia and the US, who placed unadorned before us the most challenging issues of work in elder care. There were presentations on the nature of care, on defining Alzheimer’s, on euthanasia, on the cultures of care homes, as well as research on falls, technology, psychology and so on. Eye opening stuff for all, delivered with wit and enthusiasm. I really liked Margie and Raynes attempts to make this more than simply a conference. They recognize there’s a growing movement, and we have opportunity to shape its nature. Their contribution is open and inclusive.
Amongst the most fascinating talks was an articulation of what “age” means in South African terms. Jaco Hoffman, a South African currently of the UK’s Oxford Institute of Population Ageing gave a perspective altering presentation touching on SA’s huge population growth , the devastating intergenerational affect of AIDS, shifting family dynamics and the changing roles of elders, and difference in expectations for residential care amongst population segments.
My take away thought was that age is an issue here. But its a different set of issues. When the average age of a grandparent is 40, when endemic poverty drives people to abandon needful elders on the roadside, when Alzheimer’s is as likely to be framed as a spiritual as a medical challenge, and when young people are as likely to learn social behavior from internet broadcast as from kin the same as they do in Brooklyn, Westminster and Bondi, then we need to listen harder, think deeper, share knowledge and trial new responses. It only one challenges facing the government of this youngest of States.
Deeply inspiring place.
For now CAI work to develop relationships as the foundation of long term action.
We can’t wait to go back.
- Posted by Bea the Beautiful
- On 13th May 2015
- 0 Comments