Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett’s blog
Eclipse Day Reveals Some Personal Changes
Monday, 21 August 2017

Thanks Ronni. This post took me from depression to relief. I can embrace the changes I experienced these last few months.
By a curious coincidence it is the total eclipse of the sun that triggered this consciousness raising.

When at the beginning of the year my American nephew started to organise the family reunion for this year’s eclipse, I decided that I would not travel to the States. This reluctance to suffer the discomfort and frustration of air travel surprised and unsettled me. Since my retirement – over 20 years ago – I have travelled across the globe to birdwatch (my connection to nature) and on two occasions to meet some members of my family and experience together total eclipses of the sun. (Hawaii (1991 , Hungary 1999).

In the last few months I have spontaneously given up activities that were previously important to me and felt more and more inadequate. Reading Ronni’s blog I jumped with joy.
I am OK. I am not depressed. I am normal. I just have to readjust my priorities.
I do not have to get up at the crack of dawn and breathe London’s polluted air to attend a conference or a meeting on Ageing or Film studies. No more exhausting train journeys and stays in uncomfortable B and B to hear academics report on their latest research.
Great !
I do not have to cook when I do not feel like it or feel guilty when I watch rubbish TV. I do not have to march for hours at an agonising pace to protest the state of the world. No more competing with centenarians who run the marathon. No more compelled to volunteer for good causes if I do not feel like it.
No more trying to share my interests or campaigns.
No more worrying about children, grandchildren. great-grandchild. It is time to reverse the mother/daughter relationship.

Yes Ronni I am also slowing down. I also have no patience for discomfort .
I am letting go and will stop wasting time and patience updating soft and hardware. The existing technology is good enough for me to continue researching, enriching my life and have a social life.


words and music Leon Rosselson


Active Ageing and Disability

I am angry, I am very angry.

‘Active Ageing’ is the buzz expression these days. Mention the magic words and short-term projects will be funded, academic research will be supported and women who want a contemplative and quiet life will feel guilty.

I believe that the expression was introduced by the WHO about people over 60 years of age and has been taken up by the EU and other organisations. What are the ageist assumptions that underpin the Active Ageing concept? I do not know about men, or other countries and I talk from an 80 years old Londoner’s point of view. I know that fit and healthy old women do not sit doing nothing all day. Some are still paid for their work, the majority work for no pay: they look after their grandchildren, they are carers for parents or partners, they volunteer for hundreds of charities, hospitals, hospices, schools, churches, synagogues, mosques, they take courses or lead courses. They write, they sing, they paint.
They tend their gardens and allotments and care for the environment and campaign for peace and justice. And some have earned the right to choose not to be ‘productive’. Fit and healthy women do not need help in being ‘active’. I sometimes think that they would benefit from help in slowing down.

In the field of education I am angry because Adult Education courses where old and young adults learned together have been severely curtailed for lack of funds and new courses are funded specially for the ‘old’ to be active – very often without provisions for the disabled old.

Quoted in Age-Friendly-London Report: “Older people are living with disabilities and longstanding illnesses for a greater proportion of their life, although this varies with social class, ethnicity, gender and location. At age 65 men are now expected to live with disability for 7.9 years, women 9.9 years (ONS 2014a).” I am angry because the Active Ageing campaign does not address this fact and seems to me to concentrate on the fit and healthy.

There are no courses on living with impaired hearing or vision. There are no courses in adapting to creeping disabilities. There are no courses in adapting to the changing relationship in couples when one becomes disabled. There are no courses on how to talk to your doctor and learn about the medication prescribed. I only know of one course on living with a chronic illness. And apart from the growth of independently organised Death Cafes I know of no courses about death.

Active Ageing? Yes, of course. Give the old the means and they will need no help to be active. State-of-the-art hearing aids for the hard of hearing that is one of the causes of isolation. Mobility scooters for all who want one. Local Community Centres with good transport and facilities for the disabled that will provide daily social contacts.

I am angry because the problem of isolation and mental deterioration is not solved by a befriender visiting once a week even if there are caring relatives who can visit sporadically Sheltered accommodation, care homes, nursing homes are of an appalling standard unless you are extremely rich.

Yes Active Ageing: Fund community hubs, adult education, local activities, adequate transport, meeting spaces, age-mixed housing areas with cultural activities. We are social animals and need daily human contact however superficial.


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.