Listening to Fresh Air‘s report on ‘elder-dog-care’ yesterday gave me a sharp reminder of why I helped Dr. Bill Thomas launch ChangingAging.org more than three years ago.
I was handling Bill’s media relations and we were frustrated by the mass medias’ single-minded war against aging. Culturally, our society is obsessed with all things young and “beautiful” and the mass media reflects this anti-aging bias. As a result, the vast majority of news coverage and popular culture representations of old age are negative and decline-focused.
The idea for ChangingAging.org was simple — use blogging and other social media tools to tell stories and explore viewpoints about aging that the mass media ignores, and inspire and build a community of people who share our goal in changing the way society views aging. Social change through social networking.
Back to Terry Gross and Fresh Air. I’m a big fan. It’s one of NPR’s most popular programs and can be counted on for revelatory interviews exploring contemporary issues, arts and culture. As Bill’s media publicist, I’ve been trying to get him on Fresh Air for years. When What are Old People For? was published, Terry Gross did not care to find out. When The Green House® Project became a smashing success, Terry Gross was not interested (unlike, say, Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation, thank you very much!). Bill’s views on aging and eldercare were not, we were told by Fresh Air producers, the kind of culturally resonant issue their listeners are interested in.
Which is why, yesterday afternoon driving down I-95, I listened raptly to an episode of Fresh Air focused on old age for…. DOGS.
In “Helping Your ‘Good Old Dog’ Navigate Old Age,” Veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman offered some wonderful and compassionate advice for elder-dog-care. Anyone familiar with the culture change movement in long term care or Bill’s philosophies as outlined by The Eden Alternative will find Dodman’s revelations on elder-care for dogs startlingly familiar:
- Mistreatment of old dogs is the result of owners who view old age as a disease, when in fact it’s a distinct stage of development.
- Old dogs deserve to be happy, healthy and content.
- Old dogs need to experience “fun” to be happy.
- Avoid gimmicky “senior” dog foods — it can be unhealthy to put old dogs on restricted diets. Stick with foods they enjoy.
- Dogs suffering from incontinence and dementia deserve to be treated with dignity.
- End of life decisions for your old dog are extremely difficult and sensitive. Prepare by talking to your vet and try to include all family members, even children, in the decision-making.
Based on my experience with Terry Gross’ producers, I can only come to the conclusion that she cares more about old dogs than old people. My challenge to Terry Gross — prove me wrong.
I also have a challenge to ChangingAging readers — if you think old people should get equal time with old dogs on Fresh Air, let Terry Gross know by emailing the show here.