This week we became conscious of old age at it most acute.
S. had her ninetieth birthday last year and there was a great celebration for her family and friends to mark the event. It was a wrench when at about the same time she decided to move from her fine Georgian house. She was part of a community of like-minded people who met socially and had their annual party in her huge garden. Missing them was almost as bad as leaving the house she had lived in for many years, and although the friends insisted that they would keep in touch, most of them failed to do so.
Now she is moving again. The flat which became her next home proved to be inconvenient and – always interested in people – she felt cut off from the life around her. ‘No one walks in this street, its cars all the time’ she said. Her new flat however is part of a complex designed for older people and she is looking forward with not too much apprehension to moving there next week. ‘I don’t worry; it will all happen without me seeing it as a problem’ she said.
She is very philosophical about everything and if sometimes forgetful – asking the same question more than once – continues to love company, often quietly amused by the people she meets.
M. – now well into her eighties and one of our neighbours – is unwell but bravely copes with her circumstances and is amazingly well organised. The author of many books, she has lived in this country but also abroad, and like S. has had a varied and interesting life. Until very recently she would wait for our local bus to town seated on a little portable chair which folded up and became a walking aid. Although mentally alert she has for some time found difficulty in finding the words to express her thoughts, but conversation at the pace which she can manage continues to be a delight to her and to her friends, amongst whom we number ourselves.
Like S. she is always polite, but says what she thinks, and after a meal with us will say ‘Thank you, but I want to go home now’.
Both people live on their own, and, with no close relatives near to them, they need friends as an alternative family. Both heartily disapprove of old age but in their different ways cope with the inconveniences that are involved. They live within enforced limits, but with a determined spirit, and their minds are stored with the memories of eventful and fulfilled lives.