Old age is, as they say, ‘not for sissies’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION - with Erica Neustadt of Change4Chal­font

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.