Book review: 1 October 2009

Being Old is Different: person-centred care for old people

Marlis Pörtner

PCCS Books ISBN 9781898059998

I had some difficulty with this book’s title, because there is still a need to see that older people have the same needs and aspirations as everyone else rather than describe them as “different”, writes Joy Bounds.

However, Marlis Pörtner, a Swiss psychotherapist and social care consultant, is now in her seventies and this does give her book authority.

Some of the “differences” she identifies come from the limited time that older people perceive that they have left, and the need to focus on what they consider to be the essentials. This brings certain freedoms, but patronising attitudes often work against their expression.

Person-centred theory is explored, and translated into “seven principles concerning old people”. Pörtner lays down some excellent practical ideas showing how a carer’s approach and attitude affects the well-being of the older person.

Despite some obscure theoretical sections, this is an intensely practical book of utmost relevance to carers. Pörtner is committed to life-long growth for all, including those with advanced dementia, and to the role of the professional caring relationship in realising that growth.

Joy Bounds is a retired social worker

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