We watched the half-hour TV programme last night about the rock band made up of 4O senior citizens: Zimmers by name and in some cases zimmer frames by necessity. The group was the brainchild of the documentary producer, Tim Samuels. ‘This is about old people sticking it back to the society that has cast them aside”, he says. So he brought together pensioners, some of whom were tired of life and of being marginalised by the rest of society, and got them into the recording studios where The Beatles had made many of their discs. There they recorded their version of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. You can hear the result on U Tube. Three of the group ended up in the U.S.A. and were interviewed on a popular TV programme which also featured George Clooney. We saw a bit of that, and whilst there were strong hints of the singers being patronised, they seemed to enjoy the experience and were flattered rather than intimidated by it.
We saw how some of the group normally live. One woman of 99 has moved homes 16 times, trying to find an old people’s home ‘that keeps me stimulated’.
‘I feel like the whole experience has brought me back to life’ said the lead singer who is 90, ‘ I was stuck in a rut and now I feel alive again’. Watching the programme I feared they were being used for yet another ‘virtual reality’ slot, especially when they were encouraged to indulge in the sort of destructive behaviour expected of rock groups, but hardly typical of the way their generation would behave. I find it a little sad that the needs of older people can only be brought to the attention of others by them pretending to be what they are not.
But the exercise had a serious intention, and I have to admit that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely. The producer, Mike Hedges, who has worked with U2, and the Manic Street Preachers has said ‘My grandmother died when she was in her nineties and my mother in her late seventies and I miss them.
Old people are highly entertaining to talk to. Their experiences, the things they talk about are just fantastic – really, really exciting. People forget that they know a lot and they’ve been through a lot.’ Geoff Wonfor, who shot the video, says he is a passionate champion of senior citizens. ‘I did this because it’s a really great cause and very close to my heart.’
I see one reviewer of the programme this morning, says that The Zimmers have made a persuasive case against the insidious rise of ageism. But, he concludes, will the message linger longer than 15 minutes?’