Bees in my Bonnet / Short Story / Uncategorized

The age of Old Age

This comes from a Telegraph feature about the idea of people spending less time on pension, which I enjoyed. The feature explored the alternative to the proposal for raising the retirement age with the idea of reducing the age of death by allowing pensioners to enjoy themselves – drink more wine, eat red meat, generally have a ball and let them die happy.

The crux of this is that people like me, an eighty six year-old, haven’t been consulted about being kept alive in care homes on heavy medication so that social conscience can be salved. There may be people working with the elderly who know more than me, but in my conversations with octogenarians and centenarians, I’ve been told many times they have no desire to live beyond the time they lose mobility of body or mind; they would also welcome prawn cocktail, a good steak with red wine, Black Forest gateau, a liqueur and coffee, instead of salad and a vegetable chop.

It’s all very well to keep someone alive but for what? Caring ‘about’ the aged can be very different from caring ‘for’ the aged. What does someone drooling in a care home contribute to life, and people, no matter what age they are, want to contribute. Maybe making work for carers is a contribution, but after a life working and playing and teaching and training successors, surely one does not want to be a hanger on; surely the final contribution is to gratefully leave the world to the young. My memories of a  European nation dropping bombs on us, or the makers of Toyota building bridges with dying prisoners have no place in this modern world. My attitudes to women were set in a time when there were no washing machines, women washed with rub-a dub, keeping house was a demanding fulltime job, and earning a living needed muscle and brawn.

However, as you see me coming, don’t think, poor old soul, because I’m thinking, look at this wet slob, what can I do to make them smile?

I remember my old friend Rita at 103. I went to visit her to hansel in the New Year and asked if Christmas had been good. ‘Depends on how you look at it,’ she answered. ‘I got some cosy slippers, warm pyjamas, a lovely shawl – but no whisky!!!

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