I have recently completed my PhD, entitled, ‘Senility before Alzheimer: Old Age in British Psychiatry, 1835-1912‘, at the University of Warwick.
It’s sort of about the history of senile dementia.
You might have seen my face talking about senile dementia in the asylum on ITV’s Secrets from the Asylum. I was also a historical consultant for the programme. I was very uncooly excited about the whole thing.
Many people in the nineteenth century grew old, and sometimes those older people experienced altered mental states or diminished mental capacities. A lot of the time, there were people who loved them and wanted to support them when they needed it. Sometimes they could, and sometimes they couldn’t. In that way, not much has changed.
But more has changed than you might think.
I wanted to look to the past to dig up the roots of the doom-laden and dehumanising rhetoric surrounding dementia in old age. So far, I’ve made a tiny indent into that ground.
My nan sees everything I write and mostly really likes it – except when I split my infinitives.