“The issue is how society, including human services, has chosen to define older people as post-adults living in institutions.” Bruce C. Blaney
The proportion of elderly people in western society is constantly rising. Some 24 million people worldwide suffer from dementia and about half of these people have Alzheimer's disease. The growing number of senior citizens in developed countries is raising the incidence of this disease and scientists predict that the number will have tripled by 2050.
While investigating the politics of ageing in modern society, I have for three years photographed life within a geriatric hospital in the northwest of France.
The "Protected Unit" is home to residents with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to tendencies to wander about and potentially get lost, they are confined within the ward. A locked door separates the occupants from the rest of the hospital.
Ruled according to the “principle of precaution”, residents in the unit can circulate freely within the secured area but due to a lack of activities and a limited presence of carers in the ward, the locked door becomes the centre of attention for the elders who question the obstruction and attempt to force it open.
The daily struggle with the door, damaged due to repeated attempts to pick the lock, can last for hours.
This series documents not only the day-to-day challenges in an often ignored sector, but also the wider implications of the growing populations of elderly in modern society as an increasing life span has coincided with the breakdown of the family unit.
These aspects have caused a growing disregard for the elderly, swept aside by a commercially driven, youth-obsessed culture. As growing old and being dependent is more taboo than ever, the geriatric institution hides our elders away, safely out of sight.
Due to the increased number of affected elders, the geriatric sector is confronted with a rising demand for specialized care. The Ward pictured in this series is an example of a service introduced as a result of a rapidly growing demand but without additional costs or an increased number of staff.
While giving a vision about what living with Alzheimer’s in an institution might mean, I want to motivate people to think about current care policies and the effects it can have on somebody’s life. This project gives a rare insight to a part of the modern geriatric institution. It attempts to generate debate about our institutionalized, modern way of living as well as the use of confinement as an aspect of care.
I would like for this series to encourage the current development of new forms of care in specialised institutions. With serious investment and with some attention given to this topic, it is possible to make life better for the affected elders and their relatives.