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Martin, C. (1992). The elder and the other. Free Associations, 3(3):341-354.

(1992). Free Associations, 3(3):341-354

Feature: The Elderly

The elder and the other

Carol Martin

People have said to me, So long as you feel young, you are young. This shows a complete misunderstanding of the complex truth of old age; for the outsider it is a dialectic relationship between my being as he defines it objectively and the awareness of myself that I acquire by means of him. Within me it is the Other— that is to say the person I am for the outsider— who is old, and that Other is myself.

(Simone de Beauvoir, Old Age)

Over the last ten years, I have worked as a clinical psychologist providing a psychological service to elderly people, both directly and through staff. Often referrals are made when a difficult behaviour escalates and becomes so distressing to staff or relatives that the caring relationship or placement is threatened; some patients show cognitive impairment, although this is not the major problem; often there have been major recent changes in health, circumstances and relationships; there is sometimes a recent history of multiple losses; sometimes carers hold the opinion that the problems are deliberately caused by the patient; some are referred only after having been seen by several other professionals.

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