Originally published by Indie Shergill for Enabling Enterprise 

With the proportion of over-65s on the rise, Britain is facing a crisis of care when it comes to the elderly. We are facing a problem where there is going to be a significant gap in the young workforce supporting the population of older people. Despite the immediacy of this issue, the growing population of the elderly is an area largely ignored, being hidden behind the doors of care homes throughout the country.

There are many government schemes and acts in place for the protection of elderly people in care, however at a time where spending cuts are dominating the headlines, could enterprise provide the answer?

 

As a Year Here Fellow I have been given a unique insight into the operation of the care industry. During my fellowship my frontline placement is in a residential care home, and my challenge area is ‘Age and Isolation’. The main objective of this placement is to gain a grass roots glimpse into one of the most profitable and hard-stretched industries in the country. Naturally this would lead people to highlight that the industry is indeed one that uses enterprise as a core asset. However, my experience so far has taught me that the definition of enterprise has to be challenged and teased out of this mold.

When I used to hear the word ‘enterprise’ the theme song to The Apprentice started playing in my head. It is a word that immediately strikes up images of big business men like Alan Sugar or Lakshmi Mittal. The theme tune for The Apprentice is taken from Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This ballet combines Shakespeare’s creative genius with the finesse of Russian classical music and turns it into a visual masterpiece.

You may wonder where I am going with this point in a blog post about enterprise?

It is this symbiosis of creativity and technicality that make a perfect enterprise. To me the definition of enterprise is the development of skills and attitudes to make things happen. It is this outlook that brings people and communities together, enabling economic development and social gain. This is very valid in the care sector. Enterprise in the care sector can use the entrepreneurial energy and organisational creativity that many people think characterizes the private sector, and enrich the lives of older people.

This is where I try and adapt this theory to what I have learned over the past few months. In the care sector the central aim is the provision of a high-quality later life. This is to enable older people to live independently in homely settings. Care homes offer a community where care can be tailored to the individual and specific needs of the elderly. It is along these lines that I think enterprise has a place in a care home environment.

In a care setting there are so many health-specific formalities that need to be addressed that the individual and specific needs of the elderly become second priority. Adopting an enterprising mindset here can allow for both to be number one. My idea here fits with the aims of Enabling Enterprise. By promoting active learning in the classroom, we can help students realise that their collective potential is boundless if applied correctly. So why not start teaching the young about the importance of interacting with the elderly? Children respond to things that matter, things that are relevant. Highlighting the importance of using enterprising logic will not only draw attention to the disparities in care homes, but will bridge the gap between young and old. This will teach the next generation that enterprise is not defined by big business, and show how it can be used to engage people in really tackling social issues.

By giving people a sense of ownership that comes with enterprise, we can start addressing the relevance of enterprise in care homes, and challenges faced by an ageing population.

Like Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, enterprise in the care setting can be beautifully choreographed to ensure that the older members of our community can enjoy their lives in a way that they deserve.