People your age, they often find old people…boring
My great-aunt made this assertion, when I described the volunteer befriending role mentioned in my previous post. I am not absolutely sure that “boring” is the reason many young people avoid spending time with the elderly. I have the impression that the young are a little bit afraid. The generation or two between the young and the elderly seems like, well, a lifetime, and seems like a chasm that cannot be crossed.
My work with the elderly has been surprising, rewarding, and entertaining. From the lady who insisted that, back when she was at school, they took gin on their cornflakes, to the centenarian who was still taking the bus to the bingo in the next village several times a week. The people I met would show me photos of times past – particularly memorable was a black-and-white snapshot of one lady driving a motorbike, Wallace-and-Gromit style, complete with side car.
It took a bit of patience to get them talking, but I didn’t find them boring. They had interests of their own. One eightysomething lady was keen on musical theatre and developed a somewhat improbable crush on Lee Mead.
The population of Britain is aging. Life expectancy at birth for me is somewhere around 77, and for a girl born now it is over eighty. In the coming years, the section of the population that will grow fastest is the “oldest old”.
We are all aware of the cuts in public spending that have taken place or will take place. You do not have to look far to find the treatment of the elderly making headlines. I don’t have easy answers to how we fund the increasing health and social care needs of our aging population. But the octogenarians I have known have taught me that the elderly deserve our time and our patience, our care and our respect.
This post is in memory of RDS, 01-08-1928 to 30-12-2010.