10th November 2015
With the release of the new John Lewis advert, a particular topic has come to the forefront of our social discourse… Our elderly, and what is becoming an increasing neglect of our social & kin responsibility towards them.
John Lewis have linked up with AGE UK to make sure that we let our grandparents and elderly neighbours know that we are having a great time at Christmas, but to under no circumstance ask them to pop ‘round! I mean, who wants someone snoring through the EastEnders Xmas special?! As long as you let them have a gander at the fun you’re having through a technological device, then none of your Facebook friends will judge you.
I am being facetious; I am happy that the commonplace neglect of our elderly was brought to light by that advert, but I really don’t know who signed off that story board…(?!)
Anyway, back to the rant at hand. This topic is one extremely close to my heart. Not only am I a massive fan of the 1980’s film ‘Cocoon’, but I have actually over my lifetime had numerous ‘grandparents’ who have enriched my life considerably, and whom have a place in some of my dearest memories. Today kids, I would like to give a first hand account of the impact a little bit of love can have…
You see, I was actually born in a residential care home. It’s a bit odd I know, but I’m a fan of doing things backwards. My wonderful Mum was a resident senior care-worker and we all lived in one big, eclectic community. Those living there at the time told the story of my birth as if it was the second coming, and internally I reached Justin Bieber fame levels as the years went by. This is because, for the most part of their later-lives and throughout the various places my mum worked, I was often the only child that residents would have contact with. An incredible claim I know, but a correct one nonetheless.
In one instance, my Mum took over the job or running a public-service day care centre in our local borough and hand-in-hand (with a new baby brother added to our brood), we entered her latest project… a building full of zoned-out elderly people hooked up to re-runs of ‘Birds of a Feather’ and fed copious amounts of custard/excuses as to why no one could visit that weekend. At this point I would like to inform the reader that my Mother is the most wonderful of ‘world-loving’ ex-hippies, and so what ensued was a Hollywood-esq montage of making things a whole lot better…
Suddenly we had art classes, pottery workshops, creative writing, dance classes and people were allowed to choose which biscuit they wanted with their tea (a human right may I add, not a privilege). My brother and I would join in after school and we were there most school holidays; it was the best free child care my mum ever had. But do you know what? Suddenly people weren’t always crying, giving up on eating, or staring into space. They were focussed on creating Easter hats for the spring-time fashion show (of which I was the sole catwalk model), helping my little brother call out the bingo numbers (even though he couldn’t read), and helping choreograph my Britney Spears dances for school. Whilst growing up I learnt how to tie a range of sailor knots, that true romance wasn’t just the tales of films, and how to sing most of Patsy Cline’s catalogue. They were awesome; truly awesome.
As a child I once asked my mum why none of them had families, because who wouldn’t want to hang out with them?! It turned out that only one lady didn’t, Ms Celia, and she looked after everyone else… I cried for her that day, but really in hindsight those tears should have been for everyone else.
This experience has led me to one very strong opinion, and the point of this silly blog of mine… We need to merge our elderly care and child care. We suffer from extortionate child care prices (which restricts the development of our economy), and one of the most isolated elderly populations (which leads to record numbers of deaths in winter months). We have lost the humanity in our care and as a result our paint-by-numbers care systems fail to service any more than barely staying alive!
I’ll sign off this obnoxiously long blog with an example of what could be: An initiative in Seattle that was born from a lack of funding, but resulted in something truly beautiful….
Over and out xx