Love is right at any age
Last month Valentine’s Day caused the usual flurry among retailers and die-hard romantics alike, while the usual cynics argued the day is commercial nonsense, and refused to buy into the hype.
Certainly a resthome is probably the last place one would expect there to be any kind of acknowledgement of a day that celebrates romance. Yet on the contrary, this Valentine’s Day there was also the usual flurry of activity in Radius facilities up and down the country.
Despite what many people believe until they actually reach old age themselves, romantic love doesn’t belong only to the young – it also belongs to the young at heart.
At Radius, we’ve had many examples of residents coming into our facilities lonely, having lost or separated from their spouse many years ago, and unexpectedly finding love with another resident in a similar position. Many of these residents didn’t think they’d ever get another shot at romance at this late stage in life and envisaged themselves living out the rest of their lives on their own.
We’ve even had marriages come out of these relationships, but the main benefit is the companionship that comes from re-partnering.
We whole-heartedly support our residents’ right to determine their life’s path when they come to our facilities, including their right to re-partner. What I find very interesting in these scenarios is how the wider family often reacts when the notion of romance enters the equation with an elderly relative. For some reason the news is often greeted with dismay and discomfort – the idea that “old people” might still desire romance and a shot at love is deemed to be inappropriate.
In at least one instance I know of outside of Radius, the family successfully stepped in and obstructed the relationship because they didn’t think it was appropriate. The two consenting adults, who were completely of sound mind and making plans to start a “new” life together, were banned from a romantic relationship Romeo and Juliet-style, and the family managed to secure the co-operation of the staff at the facility.
For some reason once people get into their 70s and over, wider families often seem to dismiss the opinions, feelings, desires and wishes of these relatives and deem their own to be far more important. Just because an elderly person doesn’t get around as swiftly, or isn’t as quick off the mark as they once might have been, they are seen to have less right to determine their own lives and make their own decisions.
Certainly, a person suffering from dementia is going to need help making some decisions, but a small proportion of the elderly population suffers from this disease. The rest of the aging population are still more than capable of deciding on their own courses of action and making their own choices – including whether or not they wish to have a love interest in their lives.
Just because somebody comes into a care facility, it does not mean they should lose these basic rights. I believe that it is more important than ever when a person moves into one of our facilities to acknowledge and respect each individual and afford them the dignity they have earned by very virtue of making it this far in life. And if love is still on the cards, who are we to get in the way? Companionship certainly beats chronic loneliness hands down.
Brien Cree – Managing Director, Radius Care