Thursday, 5 July 2012

When to call it a day

Recently it has been brought home to me rather sharply that I am not as young as I am in my head.

In my mind I'm 35, but just now and then a wake-up call has reminded me that bodies wear out (yes, even mine).

It became necessary to give up cleaning the brass every week in St. M's, just too exhausting.

Then the crazy weather this year has caused my 'jungle' to grow like the beanstalk and it seemed sensible to get some help in getting it under control.

A few days ago I asked one of my friendly neighbours to show me how to  order some of my household shopping online.

None of these were things I had been prepared to even contemplate a year ago, but there is no sense in clinging desperately to doing everything without help.  Admitting to advancing years is the first step, the second is to decide which chores to hand to someone else and be kind to yourself.

Since  falling over my neighbour's cat and banging my head, I have realised that slowing down, however reluctantly, and taking time instead of moving at the speed of light probably makes more sense.

Accepting the need to let some things go and not to cling desperately to a way of life which is unsustainable does not mean a lowering of standards, just points to the need to look for changing priorities.

I have just finished watching the BBC1 programme on Getting Older, where four well known figures each spent 2 or 3 days in a care home.

Though each of them was able to leave at the end of that time and those they had spent time with could not, it was good for each and every one of them to experience at first hand the drastically restricted lives of the inhabitants of the four very different homes.

The thought of having to end my days in any such place has always been, and still is, my worst nightmare, yet for many people it is the only possible way.

John Simpson was in a Star and Garter home where many of the 'guests' were in an advanced stage of dementia.

Tony Robinson, Lesley Joseph and Gloria Hunniford all had experiences which, however good (or less good) the home, left them quite shaken and disturbed.

One thing which stood out a mile was that, without exception, every single person in each of the homes, would rather have been in their own homes.

The loss of freedom.  The enforced communal aspect of life.  The physical decline and also mental decline partly due to lack of stimulation, and the routine with no variation was mind-numbingly obvious.

And for me, one of my pet hates, and one which is a staple of such places, the manner of address, with remarks like "we are not feeling so bright today", however kindly meant, is patronising in the extreme and would elicit a somewhat rude reply if addressed to me.

I think I would go along with John Simpson's early comment, before his experience, that he would rather take a pill than go into a care home.

It was a well-made and well presented programme, but a chilling reminder of what might lie in wait for those of us without family as we get older.


  1. I have recordered those programmes Ray - you must get round to watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - an alternative view of getting older!

    It is hard having to re-prioritise stuff that you have taken for granted as being able to do. Keep positive xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. I saw it too Ray.....and it brought back some memories I'd rather forget! I spent three years as an inspector in care homes......oh Dear! I feel another blog coming on!
    We all as we age have to give things up that once were easy but like John Simpson and you....think a pill might be the answer! I think God would understand!

  3. I will look out for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Jane.

    Yes you are right about re-prioritising, perhaps even re-categorising so that the necessary tasks are the only ones worth conserving flagging energies for. Then any extras can be a bonus when there is an abundance of energy.
    Said she hopefully.

  4. You have probably seen far more of such places than I ever have, though so far, I have never seen one I would consider even for a second.
    It is not merely the quality of the place, but the very fact of it's existence I find impossible to contemplate.
    Some of us were just not designed to conform to set patterns.
    Why, simply because we are no longer young, must it be assumed that our whole attitude to life has changed?
    If a pill is not available, I will when the time comes, fight tooth and nail to remain in my own home (no matter what the cost).

  5. Now that I am finally old, I have to start thinking about this stuff, you know.

    Seriously, though - this post is an interesting essay. You speak of pruning in the garden context knowing it to be the right approach to your horticulture, yet you (like any of us) approach life-pruning as a confession of near death.

    Some context now: not so long ago you lost John. In horticultural terms, a large and important feature of the garden of your life was, suddenly, gone. You had no choice in that. However, in the sunlight exposed by that change in the herbage, look what has grown. This blog, your life of discipleship, a whole array of newly acquired skills and a courage in taking them on that is still amazing to behold. In other words, in your tragedy, you have made yourself flourish.

    So prune back some of life's tasks. You are in control of that and can pick what and where this time. It is not the pruning you must focus on - but what might just happen the new space that you have created. Exciting, isn't it.

  6. We are so fortunate in our family that my mother is so very very happy with where she is living. She and my father moved there in 2004. The place is called a 'retirement community' and its residents live in either assisted living apartments or independent living apartments. My mother lives in an independent living apartment and it is a real apartment -- full kitchen, bathroom, dishwasher, cooker, washer/dryer -- and it is large. The building is beautifully appointed and residents have a choice of what to eat, when to eat. It's like a luxury hotel. It is not cheap, but it costs her less than living in her own home did. I cannot describe how fine this place is. And the staff is wonderful. I hope that some day facilities like this will be available everywhere. There is a panelled library, gorgeous lounges, a separate dining room for people to use for special family occasions, even a television station! The local Y is also housed there, complete with a swimming pool, with wheelchair access and a full gymnasium. This is to encourage the place to be integrated with the local community.

  7. Dear David. Always the glass half-full guy.
    Yet you are in some respects absolutely right, The John-shaped hole in my life has been filled with quite a number of never previously contemplated activities.
    You have spoken of courage before, and as before, I repeat it is nothing of the sort, merely a necessary response to my changed life, if I don't want to sink without trace.
    Exciting no! but at least there is the occasional glimmer of light in the gloom.

  8. I'm glad your mother is happy Broad, and for anyone who could contemplate such a move sounds as if it is very good of its kind.
    For me however, the thought of living in a community is total anathema.
    Luckily we are all made differently so while there is choice, I choose what I have.

  9. Ray, if it's any consolation, statistically the great majority of us will live and die in our own homes, not in a care home. I think you are very wise to look critically at your life and see which activities are still possible and fulfilling and which are no longer for you.

    My 88year-old mother-in-law has been a widow for over 30years and still lives on her own very successfully. She pays other people to mow her lawn and hoover her carpets as these activities are too hard for her now, but still drives herself to church and gives other (younger) friends lifts too. As for online grocery shopping, my busy daughter and her husband have done it for years and they are only in their early 40s. :-)

  10. Hi Perpetua

    Thanks for the comforting statistics.

    As to the online shopping, it is only the very heavy household goods (things in heavy containers, bulk packages etc that I will buy that way. I still prefer to see and touch before I buy.