Grandma answers a challenge:
“Why don’t you write about the lonely, sad old people out there?
“Why are you making out everything is rosy?
” Do you understand poverty, ill health and loneliness?”
OK.….! Let’s get that last question dealt with. Briefly, yes, I think I do, from personal experience. See below*
Now for the other two.
If you look at the media and read the Charity’s appeals, you would believe that all later years were ones of doom and gloom, that old age was a period to dread. “The NHS is being swamped with ill, old people “…the dreaded bed blocking. From the NHS and Social Services viewpoint it seems a tidal wave. Because of course at the sharp end you see the worst. And the worst is what gets the publicity.
Having reached 80 it dawned. The media was wrong: almost all the older people I had been meeting over the previous 10 years were fit..(well fittish give or take a new hip, a cataract op, and a hearing aid), happy and enjoying very busy lives.
Research was showing that, for the majority, later years were happy years. Many, including me, were happier than we had ever been. The majority of older people are out there living full, active lives. It is the small minority who are in trouble.
Why wasnt this Happy stage of life being recognised? Could it be that these busy active people are invisible in some way?
The generations paths dont cross much. Older people tend to be out and about during the week, when the rest of us are working. But head into a National Park on a weekday and the grey haired rambling or birdwatching groups are there, on all the paths!
Once you get your eye in and look around and they are everywhere, on allotments, volunteering in charity shops, working part time as taxi drivers, baby sitting grandchildren, reading with school kids or at dance and yoga classes. Just happily living. Millions of them!
But it wasn’t being said!
At all ages we are continually bombarded with negative messages.
“Fight off OldAge. Grief at wrinkles. Lonely Oldies. Miserable images abound. Only youth and beauty is of value. Later years are a rapid downhill slide into decrepitude. Warnings of dire consequences if you don’t run a half marathon every week. ”
It certainly does not help anyone to create this sense of dread, does it? It is scary for younger people, demoralising for older people themselves and creates an unnecessary them/us division in society.
No one was saying how pleasant life is at 70+. Truly pleasant.
Something to look forward to! But how could they? They didn’t know..You don’t know until you get there. It is a lovely surprise.
Maybe, I thought, it needs an 80 year old to say it?
And maybe adopt this:
The Anthem for Later Years ” from Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers
Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
No, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between
You got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
And have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene.
*Grew up in a mining village in a rented house on war time rations. Made a life mistake and was a homeless single Mum at 30. Married the love of my life at 42. He died of cancer two years later. Lived alone for 30 years and worked as a Physio so dealt first hand with the many problems of later years.