There is a quote by someone called Val Richards. “Just because you’re alive doesn’t mean you’re living.”
Some may say ‘living’ not existing is about the things we do but it is also about the autonomy we have over our own lives and the choices we make about what we do and when. Going through a day and having everything decided for us, is that living or existing?
What are the things that any of us do each day that make us feel we are ‘living’?
Recently I have been asking people ‘ What is the one thing that you would still like to be able to do if you had to go into a care home’ and I have had such a range of replies:
- Putting on makeup ( my 15-year-old daughter)
- knitting and talking to people ( my 93-year-old mother)
- many of them were just ordinary things – ‘reading the paper while having a cup of tea;’, ‘being able to have a cup of tea when I want’, ‘playing video games’, ‘going out for a walk’
In ‘Delivering Together’ the 10-year vision to transform health and wellbeing in Northern Ireland there is a focus on enabling people to stay well for longer and supporting everyone to lead long, healthy, and active lives. Now that people are living longer, is it enough to say that for some as long as they are fed and have shelter that is sufficient and they should not expect anything more?
Occupational therapists don’t think so. We believe that finding ways to enable older people to continue to participate in daily life through problem-solving, learning or relearning skills and making adaptations gives people back that sense of having control and making choices so they are living and not just existing. Because of this, occupational therapists should be at the heart of the process of delivering the vision set out in ‘Delivering Together’. Our report proves that.
I really believe as a society we should be treating lack of occupation as torture and we should make sure that this is very high up on everyone’s priorities to do something about.
Kate Lesslar, Policy Officer - Northern Ireland, Royal College of Occupational Therapists