Death-Friendly Communities Ease Fear of Aging and Dying

Death Friendly Communities Ease Fear Of Aging And DyingAge-friendly initiatives could converge with the work of compassionate communities in their efforts to make a community a good place to live, age and, ultimately, die. (Shutterstock)

Death looms larger than usual during a global pandemic. An age-friendly community works to make sure people are connected, healthy and active throughout their lives, but it doesn’t pay as much attention to the end of life.

What might a death-friendly community ensure?

In today’s context, the suggestion to become friendly with death may sound strange. But as scholars doing research on age-friendly communities, we wonder what it would mean for a community to be friendly towards death, dying, grief and bereavement.

There’s a lot we can learn from the palliative care movement: it considers death as meaningful and dying as a stage of life to be valued, supported and lived. Welcoming mortality might actually help us live better lives and support communities — rather than relying on medical systems — to care for people at the end of their lives.

In the context of age-friendly communities where the focus is on active living, this video invites viewers to think about the role that death plays in their lives and their communities.

The medicalization of death

Until the 1950s, most Canadians died in their homes. More recently, death has moved to hospitals, hospices, long-term care homes or other health-care institutions.


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

The societal implications of this shift are profound: fewer people witness death. The dying process has become less familiar and more frightening because we don’t get a chance to be part of it, until we face our own.

Fear of death, of aging and social inclusion

In western cultures, death is often associated with aging, and vice versa. And a fear of death contributes to a fear of aging. One study found that psychology students with death-anxiety were less willing to work with older adults in their practice. Another study found that worries about death and aging led to ageism. In other words, younger adults push older adults away because they don’t want to think about death.

A clear example of ageism being borne out of a fear of death can be seen through COVID-19; the disease gained the nickname “boomer remover” because it seemed to link aging with death.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) framework for age-friendly communities includes “respect and social inclusion” as one of its eight focuses. The movement fights ageism via educational efforts and intergenerational activities.

Improving death-friendliness offers further opportunities to improve social inclusion. A death-friendly approach could lay the groundwork for people to stop fearing getting old or alienating those who have. Greater openness about mortality also creates more space for grief.

During COVID-19, it’s become clearer than ever that grief is both personal and collective. It’s especially relevant to older adults who outlive many of their peers and experience multiple losses.

The compassionate communities approach

The compassionate communities approach came from the fields of palliative care and critical public health. It focuses on community development related to end-of-life planning, bereavement support and improved understandings about aging, dying, death, loss and care.

The age-friendly and compassionate communities initiatives share several goals, but they don’t yet share practices. We think they should.

Originating with the WHO’s concept of healthy cities, the compassionate communities charter responds to criticisms that public health has fallen short in responding to death and loss. The charter makes recommendations for addressing death and grief in schools, workplaces, trade unions, places of worship, hospices and nursing homes, museums, art galleries and municipal governments. It also accounts for diverse experiences of death and dying — for instance, for those who are unhoused, imprisoned, refugees or experiencing other forms of social marginalization.

The charter calls not only for efforts to raise awareness and improve planning, but also for accountability related to death and grief. It highlights the need to review and test a city’s initiatives (for instance, review of local policy and planning, annual emergency services roundtable, public forums, art exhibits and more). Much like the age-friendly framework, the compassionate communities charter uses a best practice framework, adaptable to any city.

There’s a lot to like about the compassionate communities approach.

First, it comes from the community, rather than from medicine. It brings death back from the hospitals and into the public eye. It acknowledges that when one person dies, it affects a community. And it offers space and outlets for bereavement.

Second, the compassionate communities approach makes death a normal part of life whether by connecting school children with hospices, integrating end-of-life discussions into workplaces, providing bereavement supports or creating opportunities for creative expression about grief and mortality. This can demystify the dying process and lead to more productive conversations about death and grief.

Third, this approach acknowledges diverse settings and cultural contexts for responding to death. It doesn’t tell us what death rituals or grief practices should be. Instead, it holds space for a variety of approaches and experiences.

Age-friendly compassionate communities

We propose that age-friendly initiatives could converge with the work of compassionate communities in their efforts to make a community a good place to to live, age and, ultimately, die. We envision death-friendly communities including some, or all, of the elements mentioned above. One of the benefits of death-friendly communities is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model; they can vary across jurisdictions, allowing each community to imagine and create their own approach to death-friendliness.

Those who are working to build age-friendly communities should reflect on how people prepare for death in their cities: Where do people go to die? Where and how do people grieve? To what extent, and in which ways, does a community prepare for death and bereavement?

If age-friendly initiatives contend with mortality, anticipate diverse end-of-life needs, and seek to understand how communities can indeed become more death-friendly, they could make even more of a difference.

That’s an idea worth exploring.The Conversation

About The Authors

Julia Brassolotto, Assistant Professor, Public Health and Alberta Innovates Research Chair, University of Lethbridge; Albert Banerjee, NBHRF Research Chair in Community Health and Aging, St. Thomas University (Canada), and Sally Chivers, Professor of English and Gender & Women's Studies, Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You May Also Like

AVAILABLE LANGUAGES

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfifrdehiiditjakomsnofaptruessvtrvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

Marie T. Russell's Daily Inspiration

INNERSELF VOICES

Healing Otherness: Your Changes, Reflected in Community
Healing Otherness: Your Changes, Reflected in Community
by Stacee L. Reicherzer PhD
Seeking out a community of healing, being exploited in it, perhaps assuming the shame and…
Horoscope Week: June 14 - 20, 2021
Horoscope Current Week: June 14 - 20, 2021
by Pam Younghans
This weekly astrological journal is based on planetary influences, and offers perspectives and…
Being A Better Person
Being A Better Person
by Marie T. Russell
"He makes me want to be a better person." As I reflected on this statement later, I realized that…
Modeling Behavior is the Best Teacher: Respect Must Be Mutual
Modeling Behavior is the Best Teacher: Respect Must Be Mutual
by Carmen Viktoria Gamper
Socially respected behavior is learned behavior and some of it (for instance, table manners) varies…
Separation and Isolation vs. Community and Compassion
Separation and Isolation vs. Community and Compassion
by Lawrence Doochin
When we are in community, we automatically fall into service to those in need because we know them…
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday
by Jason Redman
Ambushes don’t just happen in combat. In business and life, an ambush is a catastrophic event that…
A Season for Everything: The Way Our Ancestors Ate
A Season for Everything: The Way Our Ancestors Ate
by Vatsala Sperling
Cultures on every continent around the world have a collective memory of a time when their…
How to Build New Bone... Naturally
How to Build New Bone... Naturally
by Maryon Stewart
Many women assume that when their menopause symptoms stop, they are on safe ground. Sadly, we face…

MOST READ

How to Build New Bone... Naturally
How to Build New Bone... Naturally
by Maryon Stewart
Many women assume that when their menopause symptoms stop, they are on safe ground. Sadly, we face…
image
IRS hitting you with a fine or late fee? Don't fret – a consumer tax advocate says you still have options
by Rita W. Green, Instructor of Accountancy, University of Memphis
Tax Day has come and gone, and you think you filed your return in the nick of time. But several…
How Well Your Immune System Works Can Depend On The Time Of Day
How Well Your Immune System Works Can Depend On The Time Of Day
by Annie Curtis, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences
When microorganisms – such as bacteria or viruses – infect us, our immune system jumps into action.…
Planning the Burial: Anticipating Possible Problems and Blessings
Planning the Burial: Anticipating Possible Problems and Blessings
by Elizabeth Fournier
In addition to the emotional and spiritual aspects of funerals, there are always logistical and…
A teen reads her phone with a confused look on her face
Why teens have a hard time finding truth online
by Stanford
A new national study shows a woeful inability by high schoolers to detect fake news on the internet.
image
The mystery of long COVID: up to 1 in 3 people who catch the virus suffer for months. Here's what we know so far
by Vanessa Bryant, Laboratory Head, Immunology Division, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Most people who get COVID suffer the common symptoms of fever, cough and breathing problems, and…
An Open Letter to the Entire Human Family
An Open Letter to the Entire Human Family
by Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj
This is the moment of truth for humankind. Critical choices must now be made in order to protect…
image
4 ways to have a positive experience when engaging with social media
by Lisa Tang, PhD Candidate in Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph
Have you ever thought about all the ways social media is woven within your everyday life? This has…

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.