About Old Age

Old Age

She says, by @mammapolitico

Old Age

It will happen to us all one day.

I park near an old peoples home when I collect my older kids from high school. There’s an old man who is brought out by his “carer” to sit on the porch. Sitting and staring – that’s all he does. Sometimes he has his head down, nodding off to sleep with a blanket over his knees. I look at him as I wait and often wonder what is going through his mind. I wonder what his story is – What he has done with his life? Where he has been? Who has he loved?

Half an hour later, in the supermarket car park I’m raging. An elderly driver has just pulled out of a parking space without looking, missing the side of my car by inches as she  struggles to brake. “They should be retested at sixty – shouldn’t be on the road!” I’m ranting to my children. I’m annoyed and impatient with the bewildered old lady who looks at me so apologetically.

I had a summer job in an old peoples home when I needed the money for University. It was an experience so bad that I have told my children if they put me in a care home I will come back and haunt them. The residents lounge was a grim place of waiting, with hollow eyed elderly sitting staring into space. “Carers”  force fed the residents prunes and toast at breakfast time. One night an elderly lady fell and broke her hip and the regular staff wouldn’t go with her to hospital because it was the end of their shift.  I remember the fear of getting old washing over me as I in went with her in the ambulance. Sadness, that lasted for days after holding her hand in A&E because she thought I was her son. I left that agency job the next morning and felt guilty for the rest of the summer. A week later I had a phone call to tell me that my best friend had been killed in a car accident at the age of 21 – a head on collision with a drunken lorry driver. As I stood in the church at her funeral all I could think of was – she’ll never get old.

Do you ever have that feeling of “I’m just me”?  So you hear yourself speaking, you think things, you do stuff, go about your normal everyday life, then something will happen to remind you that life doesn’t stand still. Maybe you see a friend from the past who looks older. Maybe you look at your kids and think if they are that old then this aging thing must be happening to me …..

The difficult truth is can’t escape the passage of time – all we can do is make the most of the time we are given.

***

He says, by @ADadCalledSpen

We live in a world where, due to better lifestyle and better healthcare, old people will live longer and eventually take over the Earth. A virtual Zombie Apocalypse.

I don’t mean that. I LOVE old people. And not in that way you dirty minded person.

And actually the above isn’t totally correct. In the first world maybe but in the rest of the world life is still precarious.

So I have no clue what I’m talking about. Thanks for reading.

Actually, that’s not the case.

Life is about respect for others. For me, in all cases, all of the time. And it doesn’t matter what age you are. Yes, some people moan about grumpy old people, but there are plenty of grumpy young ones too.

I once sat in a McDonalds. I went in for a burger and left… god knows how long later. Hours. Over, opposite me was an old lady, I think she must’ve been in her 80’s. She sat and had a cup of tea, and sat there with it for at least three hours. Such is life that that’s what she was doing. Okay, good. She got out for a cuppa but she was alone and whatever was home for her was somewhere she didn’t want to be, perhaps because she was lonely, and being out and seeing things was better for her.

Lord knows why it’s stuck with me. 15 or so years later. I can still see her. I wondered about her family. Do they see her? Does she have contact with them?

Loneliness is a crippling thing. At any age. And as one’s body gets slower and we start to fade time must drag. My ex MIL calls it ‘time when the bits start dropping off’ and I wonder if she means physically, because she’s been in ill health, mentally, or socially. Isolation and people dropping off because… well. You’re old.

My gran told me, as she was sitting in the nursing home, ‘Spencer, I just want to die. I’m taking up room’ and it broke my heart. She’d had enough. I got that. She’d had her space and time in this world and now we was merely marking time until she died. That I got too. Each day must drag when you feel like that.

Which is why I always have a natter at the bus stop, on the train, in a newsagents, the supermarket. Anywhere. Must be hard work being old.

I see old people, and I don’t mean in a The Sixth Sense kinda way. I notice them. And I talk to them. On the bus, or on the tube. I mean, on a crowded bus when there are no seats available, which old person wouldn’t like a seat? The fact that I offer it while patting my lap and winking lasciviously is immaterial.

***

Thanks for reading and please leave your comments and thoughts in our comments slit.

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6 thoughts on “About Old Age

  1. I don’t seek out old people, they seek out me, always have. I think I have a “come and talk to me” face which I’ve tried to lose as I get older but in rural England, the oldies aren’t saying “no”! So I don’t seek it out and for that I feel bad, especially as some of the conversations I’ve had over the years have been pretty interesting.

    But nowadays I take busses less and less and drive around in my little cocoon of radio noise and hear people less and less too.

    I took a cycling course recently though and I was one of two or three people under the age of 60 which gave me loads of chances to interact with some older people. I met a lady, Doreen who was 79 (80 by the time the course finished) and had only just recovered from a broken hip. I should explain, until two weeks ago I couldn’t ride a bike so this literally was a teaching us to cycle course. Doreen learned to ride a bike at the age of 80, with a dodgy hip.

    I don’t want to be someone in a care home, I want to be Doreen when I grow up.

  2. I was in the science museum today. An elderly couple were watching us and came over to tell me how beautiful my children are and to talk to them, ask their ages, exclaim how curly my daughters hair is… The man said to my daughter what a lovely big sister she is and told her she should watch out for her Mummy being mischievous as her mummy looked like she could be so. My daughter thought that was wonderful! This lovely couple laughed and their eyes glinted and I felt very pleased that they had taken the time to speak to us. He pushed her away in her wheel chair that I hadn’t even really noticed and we all said goodbye. They didn’t appear to be with anybody, just there, out in the throng of london and people watching. I could see they loved children and wanted to be a part of the enjoyment the children were having. They were lovely and smiling from ear to ear. They must have been 85+ but because of their smiles and interest they just seemed youthful. There’s a song Bette Midler sings called ‘Hello in there’ (I think that’s the title) and I love the lyrics which say never to let someone go past you without noticing just because they are old. They are people who are living and have a past of tales to tell. ‘Don’t you pass them by and stare, as if you didn’t care, say hello in there’.

    I really enjoyed reading this post and love the blog idea! Ruth

  3. I was in the local optician’s shop recently, just sitting waiting for a check-up. An elderly couple came into the shop – she quiet and slightly distant, he chatty and quite loud, but with a protective arm around her shoulders. “I’ve gone and sat on her glasses,” he announced dramatically and anxiously to the lady behind the counter. His wife, meanwhile, was speaking to another assistant and said simply “I’ve mislaid my glasses,” either not wanting to make his vexation and guilt any worse or not aware of what had really happened. The scenario was re-enacted several times as the old chap repeated his confession with increasing emotion until, on his fourth time of telling the receptionist the story, he clasped hold of her hand, choked back tears and stuttered, “You know what I did. I sat on her glasses. I’m an old fool.” The receptionist reassured him that they could get another pair, but added that it would be Monday [this was Thursday] before they could get another pair that was free of charge, and that it would cost quite a lot to do it there and then. Tears running down his cheeks, he sobbed “I’ll pay for them now. She needs to have them. I did it.” Meanwhile, his wife sat silently and patiently – evidently confused but absolutely dignified – in the corner of the shop. It was a tender and poignant little cameo scene, and it made me think hard about aging and whether the couple had younger family who could have come to help them and save them this stressful, very public experience. It certainly made me think about my own mum and dad, who are not much younger than the couple I saw, and wonder what might be going on in their lives without me even knowing.

  4. Aww – that is quite some story. It’s heartbreaking to think of so many elderly people who have no one to help them with everyday practicalities. I’m hoping for a return to community spirit eventually where neighbours will look out for vulnerable elderly in their area instead of turning their backs and ignoring the problem. If social attitudes are cyclical lets hope that ‘Love thy Neighbour” comes around again soon.

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