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Desmond O’Neill

Desmond O’Neill: The Healing Touch

20 Oct, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015Although not as grand as the Museum Quarter of Hapsburg Vienna, Dublin has a proportionately rich concentration of museums, galleries, and Victorian heritage alongside Trinity College Dublin, our own mini Museum Quarter. The analogy is not entirely without basis as both concentrations arose in the context of large empires, and elements of both have taken some time to adapt to new forms of existence within relatively small democracies.

In Ireland this change was largely entwined with the recalibration of the status and relationships of an Anglo-Irish and largely Protestant establishment within a new state, which from the 1930s assumed a markedly different theocratic direction to the existing orthodoxy. Many of these institutions went into a form of inward looking hibernation for a number of decades, emerging eventually strengthened and revitalised by the fusion of traditions in a pluralist society. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Welcoming the new ageing in a global context

12 Oct, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015

Expenditure in older populations is an investment, not a cost, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

With relatively little fanfare, the World Report on Ageing and Health—one of the most important WHO documents in recent years—was launched in New York to coincide with the UN International Day of Older Persons on 1 October. It represents a historic change of emphasis for an organisation whose focus in the past centred largely on infectious disease and childhood.

However, in a changing world with reduced child mortality and a major shift in disease patterns, non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and traffic accidents) now represent the major threat to global health. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Nordic insights into the art of ageing and dying well

23 Sep, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015I hate to miss the opening ceremonies of European geriatric medicine conferences, with the individual interplay between this most complex of medical specialties with the national characteristics of the host nation.

Norway is notable for its ability to fuse simplicity and sophistication, typified by the striking new Opera House in Oslo where the sloping roof provides not only a promenade for its citizens, but also echoes of its mountainous and snowy landscapes. It is also home to an energetic and cheerful body of geriatricians who hosted the well-organized and cutting-edge 2015 Congress of the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society in Oslo last week. more…

Desmond O’Neill: 45 years of solitude

15 Sep, 15 | by BMJ

Des O Neill 2015One of the rare pleasures of life is to encounter a movie without the encrustation of prior critical approval, hype, or derision. One of my stand-out cinematic experiences occurred at a very busy stage of my life when I was brought to The Matrix without any prior awareness of plot or critical reception. The sheer pleasure of an unencumbered fresh take on cinema added immeasurably to the experience.

Sadly, the PR machine of modern cinema is such that pre-release interviews, puffs, and early reviews now contaminate the quasi-totality of cinematic viewing. Cinema reviewers are a breed unto themselves, their columns founts of wry urbanity and knowingness. This chic cynicism retains a blind spot, a quasi-monarchical reverence for certain actors and directors, usually those fêted at Sundance or with Un Certain Regard at Cannes or an aristocracy of the daring and experimental, from Isabelle Huppert to Quentin Tarantino. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Wheelbarrows, transport, and health

13 Jul, 15 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillThere is an old joke about a man who goes through a customs post with a wheelbarrow of sand every day. The increasingly frustrated customs officers make intensive searches of the contents, but never find any contraband. After many years, all are retired and meet by chance in a pub. When prevailed upon to reveal what he had been smuggling, he volunteers that it was wheelbarrows.

This story evokes parallels in many aspects of healthcare, whereby a focus on the tangible and the traditional can distract attention from the often less well defined, but bigger issue. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Surprised by beauty

19 Jun, 15 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillLike most doctors, my conference schedule is usually mapped out well in advance, anticipating the complex leave requirements of trainees and colleagues in an ever busier department of geriatric and stroke medicine.

This year, while on a 12 month secondment to the rapidly evolving Irish programme in traffic medicine, the constraints on my timetabling are correspondingly freed, and taking in an impromptu conference is now not only possible but also akin to a stolen pleasure. more…

Desmond O’Neill: The success and opportunities arising from population ageing

28 May, 15 | by BMJ


There is an extra uplift from spring conferences which mirrors the freshness of the season. My own traverse started in Vienna with a reflection on how the hegemony of the English language impoverishes our access to German speaking culture, distancing us from a rich spirit of inquiry that suffuses Germanophone congresses. Philosophical and cultural topics lie remarkably easily alongside the more technical aspects of gerontological science, in a collegial and relaxed ambience. more…

Des O’Neill: Flights of Imagination—Birdman and Still Alice

11 Mar, 15 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillBirdman, one of the most riotously entertaining yet serious movies of the last decade, deservedly won a clutch of Oscars. Dealing with ageing, the fear of irrelevance, and the nature of art, it wore these themes lightly, bearing us aloft through the imaginative direction of Alejandro González Iñárritu, skilled camera work, humour, and a superb script. more…

Desmond O’Neill: Older drivers and medical fitness to drive

19 Jan, 15 | by BMJ

desmond_oneillDoes life really imitate art, or is it the other way round? Listening to an exhilarating live performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra of Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, the droll tone poem about a famous trickster by Richard Strauss, I was struck by the notion that this might be the first description of ADHD through music. more…

Desmond O’Neill: A gerontological fear of missing out

18 Nov, 14 | by BMJ Group

desmond_oneillFaced with a gerontology conference with 30 parallel sessions over five days, the texting argot of teenagers comes in handy. To LOL and YOLO has been added FOMO: Fear of Missing Out! Effective FOMO management strategies involve several ingredients. The first is not change between sessions as invariably the timetable has changed in the other room, undermining the experience of both sessions.

The second is reassurance that repeated scrutiny of the programme book to choose sessions bestows a flavour of the hot issues in gerontology. Mixing during coffee breaks and receptions to hear what other delegates found interesting is equally important.

Finally, the poster sessions offer the best opportunity to pick and mix, as well as for serious discussion. Platform presenters are as moved by fear of looking foolish as by science, so dialogue at oral sessions tends to be correspondingly less free-ranging. more…

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