Old age is, as they say, ‘not for sissies’
In a recent newspaper story, an elderly Italian couple was found by police sobbing with grief as they watched a sad story on the evening news. On inquiry, they were found to be suffering from the loneliness which comes from disassociation with society; a loss of involvement and inclusion in a community. This being Italy, the police made the couple pasta, which they sat down to eat together. Let’s hope that the resulting publicity will help their re-integration with family and friends nearby.
The problem of loneliness amongst the elderly is well-documented and hard to tackle. Younger people are busy until retirement and are having children later, and these factors can squeeze out the time and energy it takes to ensure that our eldest generation is being included and cared for.
Recently, I saw comedian Jenny Eclair in her show Grumpy Old Women Live: 50 Shades of Beige. Have to say, not my normal taste. The audience was packed with women of a certain age – and featured one solitary guy. You could have cut the oestrogen with a knife.
So in this two hour romp we covered all sorts of subjects concerning older women, some all too boringly familiar, some a complete surprise, and one which earned a huge laugh – the idea of putting elderly parents in a home, which means, Jenny announced, ‘any home except mine’. Cue emphatic recognition laughter.
Quite apart from whether this is a somewhat questionable extension of hackneyed mother-in-law jokes, this does highlight an issue in our society; how do we keep people feeling engaged and relevant, rather than disempowered by a world which has changed, for some, beyond recognition? If you cease to understand the world in which you live, fear and loneliness quickly follow.
In Buckinghamshire, the University of the Third Age is extremely popular and plays a fantastic role in connecting people, quite apart from its educational benefits. Churches run lunches and other meet ups for the older among us. But are we leaving it to others to show a caring face?
Old age is, as they say ‘not for sissies’. It’s tough and frustrating as faculties diminish, mobility declines and everyday tasks get harder and take longer. I’m not proposing a solution here – it would be too simplistic if I were. But awareness of the issues of a huge – and growing – sector of our society is very important.