Another friend’s contribution.  From  Glenhem (age 78)


Because you’ve spent all your working life doing what other people want you to, the only other option on retirement seems to be hibernation. The friend who took an exhausting job in a charity shop had to go back to work for a year in order to escape the commitment honourably. Needless to say the second retirement around, she hibernated.  Giving back to society on your own terms is different from having to work for your pension.  When it comes to teaching throughout old age, I don’t see how seventy year olds have the energy for boisterous teenagers, but ghurka wives should be different.

In retirement I did easy things on the fringes of committees or running workshops until I could hand over..  Then I found a request in a village newsletter for teachers to help Nepalese women with their English.  ‘Once a month only a possibility’ – that was the attraction.  I’d always felt that men who were prepared to die for us deserved to retire here with their families.

 We assembled at the meeting to find out about things; most of us teachers and most of us willing to be helpers.  I sat next to one of my first A level students, now a pensioner, ‘Aren’t you going to be a teacher?’ she asked.  She still can’t/won’t use my first name; I’m trying to get away from all that.  One who volunteered to be a teacher said she’d never taught before,  but would like to try.  The rest of us rolled our eyes…eighty students, a dozen helpers and you conducting it all from the platform singing ten green bottles or one finger one thumb keep moving. No thank you

Working in the team with my ex-pupil made me careful not to take too much initiative, but when an older helper took charge, there was a tiny flicker of ancient hierarchy. I’d really like to be one of those CEOs who go incognito to help with the washing up in one of their branches and then say ,’Do you know who I am?’ before promoting the nice ones.  My ex-pupil didn’t know I’d retired as deputy head.

Will we be expected to carry on working with down-sized status as well as down-sized  houses?

Teaching Ghurka wives is fun. ‘My name is Ka ‘ one was writing – ‘No ‘, I said, ’La for Lakshmi,’ but she carried on writing Kali.  I’m a bit muddled on Hindu goddesses and not half as clever as I think I am.  You can’t stop yourself assessing their intelligence as in the old days, but then nobody dared poke you to be sure you attended to her next and nobody got up at the end of a class and did a little dance. Was I too dignified to join in?  No – after two hours I was so exhausted, I could  barely stand.



Crisis in Care

am I politically naive?

From http://www.carehome.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1556523/over-a-thousand-older-and-disabled-people-lobby-parliament-on-social-care-reform

Over a thousand older and disabled people have turned up to a mass lobby of parliament.The rally has been organised by the Care and Support Alliance which represents over 60 charities and organisations. Older and disabled people have travelled from all over the country to attend the event.The campaigners have arranged meeting with over two thirds of English MPs, while hundreds more people are targeting their MP online using facebook and twitter in the world’s first interactive ‘twobby’.  Simon Gillespie, chair of the Carer and Support Alliance and chief executive of the MS Society said: ‘Social care is not a nice to have extra – without support many people are condemned to a mere existence.’  ‘People are living longer with illness and disability and the chronically under-funded system is in crisis.Yet social care budgets across England fell by an estimated £1bn last year, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.’   http://www.carehome.co.uk/news

This is the opportunity of a generation for government to improve the lives of millions of people, and help ease the strain on the already financially stretched NHS.’ The Government is currently preparing a white paper on social care which will be published later in spring, alongside a progress report on how to reform the way that care is funded. The Care and Support Alliance hopes the mass rally of parliament today will show the strength of public opinion and will be a key element in influencing the Government’s policy on social care.

None of my ‘young old’ friends are available to come with me. They are all very busy in a variety of activities and did not know about the event. My old old friends do not know about the event.  I arrive at Westminster Station and notice groups of white-haired people, some sitting,  waiting on the only bench available in the huge station.  About half a dozen blind people with canes or helpers seem to be waiting too.

At the Cromwell Green entrance  of the House of Commons a few people are milling about. There are no crowds of support, no trade unions banners, no anti-war or left-wing placards on the green opposite.  I am directed to Church House because it is too early for the lobby. On the way I come across a friend in a wheelchair going to see her MP. She is surprised to see me there given that I am not a carer or in need of care. Church House is heaving with hundreds of people, registering and queuing for a cup of tea. The different disabled charities desks line the walls. There is a stand where you can share your experience of care and one where you can put a question to the minister or MP. All the people there seem to belong to one of The Care and Support Alliance groups.  The invisible people: the disabled and their carers.  I see somebody I know. I go to talk to her, she also is surprised that I should be there. She belongs to a local group fighting the destruction of Disabled Support Services.

Isn’t the crisis in care a political issue? Haven’t the many reports of abuse of the vulnerable  in care homes, hospitals and even private homes made any impression on the general public? the politically engaged? Isn’t the issue of national importance?  Should everybody ignore the Human Rights Abuses as reported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission? http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/nov/

There was only one celebrity -Tony Robinson- to attract the attention of the press. But this did not impress them it seems. The mass lobby was not reported – unless all the people I know have also  missed the general news or the London news.

A friend of mine who is a social worker said to me “I really do not like the way the old people are referred to. It is always ‘They’ never ‘We’.

Yes I am naive but very angry.

at the shoe shop

I walk in, wearing my trusted worn out, lightweight, waterproof, non slip walking boots. The attendant homes in on me and ask so pleasantly “Can I help you?” “Yes I say” delighted that  this promises to be a quick purchase. “I would like to replace these shoes” . She disappears and returns with a dainty pair of black flat shoes, comfortable looking. “No” I say “a pair of walking boots like these”  pointing to my cherished boots. She disappears again, trying to help another old lady on the way. She is back again with two pairs of black boots to choose from. Very elegant and in fashion these are, but not exactly what i wanted to replace my trusted walking companions with. I had worn them for the last 10 years , rambling in England and abroad, but also in London to exhibitions and even to the theatre. I feel good in them. They support my ankles and do not slip on the slushy pavements.    I feel secure up and down escalators, and battling amongst the crowds. “walking boots I say” while she shows the other old lady a delicate pair of black shoes. The lady replies looking at me with a wry smile ” I would like a more elegant pair”. The attendant has lost interest in me. I grab her attention, point again to my boots . “Oh I see ” she says in her broken English, “shoes for the young people”.

Was her English so bad that she did not understand that I wanted to replace my boots? or could she not conceive that an old woman would want the comfortable well designed practical walking boots targeted at the young?

Anyway I am off to the mass lobby of Parliament about the crisis in care in my wonderful new lightweight, waterproof, non-slip, walking boots with orange laces.

On Tuesday 6 March, campaigners will be flocking to Westminster to lobby their MPs, calling for an end to the crisis in care.  The lobby is being organised by the Care and Support Alliance, an organisation of over 50 disability and age charities including Age UK.