The number of people living with dementia is growing exponentially. The effects of this neurocognitive disorder (the majority are the Alzheimer’s type) are not confined to the numbers affected by the condition. The impact of dementia on the lives of persons living with dementia (PLWD), their caregivers and care professionals must be explored. It is important to reflect on the relationship between society and dementia as it has an overwhelming effect on the individual and those around them. From the moment a person is suspected to be suffering from dementia, their social interactions with others progressively changes.
I was somewhat alarmed to find myself, as a 70-year-old, suddenly categorised as a member of a particularly vulnerable group. This is a group of people based only on the number of years that they have lived who have been singled out as needing to be extra careful and isolated earlier than others during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, this is for the protection of our health and signals society’s concern and protection of members of the population who are clearly more at risk.
As we age, we are more likely to suffer the underlying health issues which also make people more vulnerable to this virus. Unfortunately, using such a crude indicator of vulnerability as age alone has its downside. Categorising people in this way feeds into prejudice against older people and a deficit view of ageing that is already circulating in our society. Such ageist attitudes depict people in terms of their age alone and obscure the huge diversity that actually exists among older people.