Allan Takes Aim Blog

I can’t remember

Posted on: 1 February 2013

I can’t remember

Have you ever said the words I can’t remember? I know I have. Indeed many, many years ago when a policeman visited my home to ask me had I been near an incident he was investigating, I replied: “I can’t remember.” But I did remember although the incident, a schoolboy prank, wasn’t serious. That apart and because the other boys concerned would say they couldn’t remember either, the matter would soon be forgotten. And so it proved.

Unfortunately for myself and fellow the miscreants our mothers did not forget the policeman’s visit. For them it was a mark of shame. And nor did they believe us when we said we couldn’t remember. Speaking only for myself, my mother said she would make my backside so sore I’d never forget it. Nor have I.

But the words ‘I can’t remember’ now haunt me because they are words that time and time again I hear being used by some of Australia’s older citizens. They do not use these words to avoid responsibilities. They use these words because they cannot remember.

These words haunt me because we often think things that older people can’t remember are trivial. Only later do we realise that perhaps their not remembering was really an early warning of something more serious such as forgetting their once daily rituals of bathing, cleaning teeth, combing hair and getting dressed.

Often, it is a long time before their forgetfulness is recognised as an indication of a more serious situation such as when their irritation boils over into uncontrollable fits of anger when particular acts of forgetfulness are remarked on. The latter is particularly noticeable when they no longer seem able to read and understand thus reducing their capacity for conversation and their capacity to participate in family or community activity.

Sadly too, many end up not being able to take of care of their appearance. Many women, for example, lose the ability to use make-up while men forget how to shave. Concomitantly they lose all interest in the life of their families. Even more sadly some become incontinent and lose their sense of hygiene to such an extent they cannot go out but need full time care.

It worries me that as longer life spans become common, more and more people will suffer from the ‘I can’t remember’ condition better known as dementia. However, I hasten to add that not only older people suffer from dementia so too, do young people.
In years past many families customarily took care of their elders. Unfortunately as Australia has become more affluent and the number of older people living longer has grown this custom is declining. Indeed more and more elder citizens are being confined in institutions that I heard one young person disgracefully call, a ghetto of the demented.

The fact is, affluence has led to selfishness, an image reflected in our political system regardless of the political philosophy of various parties. Indeed, as more of our politicians get younger, the interest many of them have in older Australians declines.
At the same time and because science likely to improve both the mental and physical health of people to such an extent that in the not too distant future we might not just have a first, second and third age but also the fourth and fifth ages in which they are likely to live. .

That said, I’d like politicians, younger Australians and younger people around the world to pay particular attention to those generally older people who say: “I can’t remember’

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