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Disabled or Infirm?

Recently here in Northern Ireland, a discussion has arisen as to the association between charities representing the elderly and those representing the disabled. Somehow a link has been developed between being old and being disabled.

I couldn’t disagree more with this point of view. I’m not sure if it is the elderly charities attempting to move in to the disability world or the other way round? Whoever it maybe, they have their own political agenda and it isn’t fair and I feel that it cheats the social fight people living with a disability face on a daily basis.

If the population at large latch onto the notion that disability and old age go hand in hand, then they’ll soon begin to assume that we’re talking about hospitals and care homes forget about education, employment and a family life.

So what’s the difference?

Well to me that is plainly obvious as you become old, your body naturally begins to deteriorate and with it the lack of ability. This is described in the English language as becoming infirm.

  1. weak in health or body, especially from old age (Collins Dictionary).


I’m not saying that similar aids are used to assist these people, but if you roll back the years, they would return to perfect health again.

Infirmity will bring many complications for general health and the need for day to day living as the body deteriorates, but this is not the case for those with a disability. Yes many have complications and need specialised care, but for most daily living is achievable as an independent person with the use of assistive aids and occasional help.

Some arguments I have heard have likened old age to being a disease and I think this is just an insult to those who have a medical condition, such as myself. Old age is a natural part of life. Is being a baby a disease? Of course not. Are they disabled? Of course not

Being disabled is something quite different.

  1. lacking one or more physical powers, such as the ability to walk or to coordinate one’s movements, as from the effects of a disease or accident, or through mental impairment (Collins Dictionary)

As a wheelchair user, I am disabled and one day in old age, I might become infirm too and the big difference is that if you roll back the years for me, I’ll still need my wheelchair.

On a day to day basis I live an independent life and play an active role at work as well as in the lives of my wife and children.

If infirmity is really going to become a national crisis then I’m all for championing that idea; but the notion of associating it to the disabled community is just wrong on every level. Whatever agenda you might have or you might feel you have to attract political attention, for your own cause, you aren’t doing the community of disabled people any favours.

So all those people out there trying to associate the two, I say just stop it



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