… old people — you know, people like you and I, your grandma and your dad — there’s little enthusiasm. Getting old, being old, is not a sexy topic, unless you’re Robert Redford or Oprah makes it so. A centre-fold (!) article in yesterday’s Globe & Mail reports on the medical speciality of geriatrics. Apparently it makes sense — medically, economically, and otherwise — to bring care to elderly, frail patients in their homes as it “often results in better care for less money.” Duh!
But who wants to practice such medicine? Who wants to make house calls and see patients one at a time (instead of having them stacked waiting in cubicles for profitable efficiency? Who wants to enter the messiness of ageing?
Each year, across this country, almost half of the geriatrics residency places (15 of 31) sit vacant for lack of interest. This year only 3% of doctors selected geriatrics as a first choice for medical specialty training. Young doctors, it appears, are more drawn to lucrative specialties, relegating family medicine and geriatrics to the bottom end of desirable careers.
Health Canada tells us that we face “significant aging of [our] population as the proportion of seniors increases more rapidly than all other age groups. In 2001, one Canadian in eight was aged 65 years or over. By 2026, one Canadian in five will have reached age 65.” Chances are that I’ll be dead and gone by then, but what about you? Who will care for you? I’ve already concluded that we (as individuals, as a society) prefer not to talk about dying. Getting and being old (especially old and sick and dependent) are equally unpopular topics for conversation.