I have just finished the first draft of the chapter on care for the elderly for my new book. So here is a quiz question: what is the range - among different European countries – of the percentage of women aged over 65 and without a partner/husband who are living with one of their adult children? When I have asked people this question, they have mostly been totally wrong about both ends of the range. The statistics are indeed extraordinary. Please have a guess. The answer is revealed later on.
The chapter was really difficult to write. First, the subject is depressing. It is grim to come across figures showing how many people in residential care are clinically depressed and wish they were dead. It is sad to read of the loneliness. Second, it is tough or impossible to come up with a simple answer to fit all situations. There is so much variety in the condition and preferences of people over 65. But it does seem to me that many countries have been too eager to give up the family as a unit which can provide comfort and care to elderly parents. It is strange – but I think is true – that supposedly backward Greece, Portugal, Spain (and Italy) may have been right while ‘advanced’ Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden (and the EU which has encouraged institutional care) may have been wrong.
The answer: the range of percentages is from 3% in Denmark to 61% in Portugal (research report dated 2000). Quite an astonishing range, I think. It shows how the behaviour of people is strongly influenced by their welfare states. We should not assume that the cultures of these countries were always different with regard to the elderly. There is reason to believe that all cultures, including the Scandinavian, used to look after their elderly parents.
Now I am moving on to crime and civil behaviour. I would be grateful for any input or experience from any country about how these things are now or how they have changed in the past 30, 40 or more years.
For example: if you go to public buildings like a post office or hospital in your country, is there a sign warning you not to abuse the staff?
But I would be delighted to hear about any other perceptions you may have about crime or behaviour or, indeed, how the concepts of virtue or duty are doing in your country.
- The elderly British appear to be among the most neglected in the world
- ‘We have more compassion for animals in this country than our elderly’
- Schools as academies of crime
- Should not children take prime responsibility when elderly parents can no longer look after themselves?
- A Picker Institute report on the NHS