• Old Friends 01 March 2016 | View comments

  • 29th February 2016 | By David Jolley

    I have been pleased to have sight of the January issue of the newsletter produced by the Faculty of Old Age in the Royal College of Psychiatrists


    The Faculty, through its origins as the (Special Interest) Group and Section, has been my lifeblood from the early 1970s and still provides friendship and kindred thoughts which sustain me.

    The new issue of the newsletter is the first to be edited by Helen McCormack, Sharmi Bhattacharyya and Anitha Howard. They have taken over from Claire Hilton who has been an inspirational editor, leading the newsletter out of the wilderness and into the light – producing good quality and interesting articles from a range of backgrounds and to a predictable time-table. It is established as a ‘must read’ within the sea of competing possibilities for attention.

    As befits a first edition, this is a blockbuster, dominated by a series of short essays which reflect people’s thoughts and feelings about giving their lives ‘in service of old age’ (Tony Whitehead). Every piece has depth and value and is worth reading and thinking about.

    I am pointing, though, to the articles from Alistair Burns and Susan Benbow.

    Alistair’s support of the newsletter is wonderful. He is established as the national and international face of dementia care and has widened his role to include other mental disorders of later life. Brilliant.

    Here he modestly draws attention to the recently published report of the Mental Health Task Force:


    Worthy as this is, in my unconstrained life of semi-retirement, I found it long and lacking in the fire needed to make me seize it as the banner to be used in leading toward a better life.

    Alistair points much more engagingly to his three current foci – (he claims not to be a Methodist lay preacher, but uses their formula of threes) – depression: with statistics and clinical illustration, loneliness: depression in another language, and Ageless Mental Health Services – the vote being overwhelmingly for special services for older people.

    So we know what we are about and have ideas on how we might do it.

    Susan Benbow brings together a career in mainstream Old Age Psychiatry with a long-term affinity for Psychotherapy – Not a mix to be come across often, but certainly exemplified by Don Williams and a few notable others in the past. Not a question of either/or – but of bringing to bear relevant skills and attitudes to the spectrum of human experiences which we encounter. 

    For people in general, patients and practitioners she quotes Antonio Machado:

    ‘There is no path: You make the path as you walk’ 

    What could be a better fit in our Pathfinders project?

    Keys for Susan Benbow’s illumination and sustainment are: patients, families, complexity and colleagues. We might find these secure fellow-travellers too. In the freedom of ‘retirement’ she explores further through therapy, teaching, safeguarding and research – with clinical sessions at Gnosall ensuring here steer is secured in reality

    Must Read



    « Back to archive
  • Leave your comment

  • Name:
    Enter the code shown above: