Since I started at Scottish Care I have noticed a change in the advertising feeds that show up on my computer. Clearly some algorithm has assumed that my interest in health and social care, and the human rights of older people is because I have aged significantly in the last 6 months (mind you, given what I have seen by way of pressures on the sector, there could indeed be some figurative truth there).
It has been an interesting experience to see aging through the eyes of an advertiser. Many of the photographs contain trendy looking silver haired ladies – ‘move over sage and beige, grey and black are where it’s at’. The women smile back at me with a confidence that I could only have dreamt of in my twenties. They have seen, and quite possibly, done it all.
But as the products move from beauty and adventure to assistive, there is a marked change in the photographs. The face vanishes to be replaced by hands. Oh so many wrinkly hands. Or backs, they are popular too.
The philosopher Levinas describes the face as “Living presence”, the Oxford Dictionary defines faceless as “remote and impersonal”. Whilst there is countless research into the reasons behind this de-personalisation, and campaigning to refocus the lens, the reality remains that the portrayal of older people in advertisements is often the opposite of presence. It is absence.
And whilst it may be a reaction associated with ignoring the stark reality that will affect us all, surely this is a point where we should afford ourselves some dignity.
Perhaps then it is of no surprise that theme of absence is what I also see the social care sector battling with.
In my final blog of 2017, I raised a thank you to our partner organisations for our invitation to the table, but this is still work in progress – the independent sector have representation at only 7 out of 32 IJB’s. I also asked our partners to listen. If presence is only notional, then there will be no useful impact. Without our voice, it is not possible to properly map and evidence the landscape of the health and social care sector as a whole. Without that map, it is not possible to commission or deliver effectively.
At yesterday’s Scottish Evidence Summit hosted by the Alliance for Useful Evidence and Iriss, everyone was asked to take away an action – mine is to tackle that disconnect between evidence and implementation. The health and social care sector as a whole needs to incorporate our evidence and make it real and applicable, and, have the bravery to follow through with necessary action.
So, let us stand up proud of our contribution to the sector – social care is so often the buffer for health care, it seems obvious that they need to be considered in totality.
And with that, let us stand up proud of aging – 2018 may be the year of the young person, but do not let that distract us from the bigger picture. Young people will get old too.
Greater presence and indeed prescience of aging and older people should bring greater presence and prescience of the sector, so let’s ban those faceless photos, and raise our voice in a manner that will be heard.