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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Reflections on ageing

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 01 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3395
  1. Desmond O’Neill, consultant physician in geriatric and stroke medicine, Dublin
  1. doneill{at}

These tales of ageing in a book by a geriatric psychiatrist reminded Desmond O’Neill why he became a gerontologist

As a child I was fortunate to experience a wide range of older people. That all four grandparents had dementia mattered not a whit to us as children. One grandfather made tea using tobacco; the other reverting to moistening his cheroots by inserting them completely into his mouth as he had learnt in the trenches at the Somme. With or without dementia, their independence of spirit was notable and intriguing. Our unquestioning acceptance of them, and of some highly individual great aunts, was tempered and transmitted through the lens of care, interest, and engagement shown by my parents and their family.

I have no doubt that these experiences influenced my choice of career, and the vast majority of geriatricians share this abiding sense of enjoyment and fascination of working with older people, the most complex, enriched, and challenging of patient groups. To us it is not unsurprising that several studies have shown that career satisfaction in our specialty is higher than for almost all other …

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