I had a career once; a bit eclectic; a mix of the practical – nursing – and the dreamy thinker who nevertheless had to earn a wage; research, development of services, evaluation etc. etc. At one interview for a job in the NHS (now abolished of course, the job not the NHS although…. no that would be a different and longer piece of writing) a very non-PC pin-striped top manager looked at my CV and said, I’m not sure where you’re going with this.   Apart from the sheer brass nerve of that question, I admit, the eclecticism didn’t get me a good pension, but what it did do was bring me into contact with older people. I washed, dressed and nursed them, listened to them, worked to develop services for them, designed research frameworks for and about them. And I ended up as a freelance consultant, and my expertise was older people and their carers.

And I used to think to myself that when I’m older will I be satisfied with the way society treats the very old?   We post war baby-boomers, we will be more demanding than the pre-war generation. And things will be different, won’t they? We will not accept ageism.   We will not tolerate poor care in a nursing home, hospital, or our own home. Above all, we won’t be so grateful.

But will we be that different? We all want to age, I think the word is, actively, but what happens when all that activity, all that active ageing comes to an end and we become truly old and truly frail?

A recent Observer article declared that, as Britain is an ageing country what about catering for older people’s needs?

And indeed we warrant that attention as the over 65s here in the UK spend £2.2billion a week on goods and services. There are around 14.7 million of us over 65s in the UK – that’s 23% of the population. That’s huge numbers of us, and huge spending power, but are our needs being catered for? Well, according to this article, research tells us that yes society is under-prepared for this huge ageing population but we, the ageing over 60s, also don’t like looking too far into the future either.

OK, perhaps what the over 60s might find hard to do is to look at the point beyond active ageing when we lose the ability to function: to cook, clean, shop, wash, dress. Yes, that is challenging – can you do it, you very young journalist, researcher and policy wonk?

I look back at my younger ‘working with and for older people’ self and feel slightly ashamed, because I was like an anthropologist looking at a tribe that was ever so interesting, but not really what one aspired to. And while the correct words were to include and work with the researched – were you, really? Nope, because the research, the evaluation is always commissioned from above. What I’d like to see is more research and policy coming from the older population, and while we do have our excellent older people’s organisations that work both nationally and locally, with and for older people, I do mean, and let’s be radical here, I want the voice of the really old framing and designing the research, and writing the reports. I read various research reports on ageing and attend the occasional conference and the negativity that surrounds the very old – it really does seem all doom and gloom: dismal nursing homes, 15 minute slots for care, Alzheimer’s………

But the article also notes that as we age we become more and more diverse. And boy does that lift me.  What that says to me is you cannot lump us all together into one homogenous group and say this will happen to you as you age. For instance, one in six people over 80 have dementia – OK that means five out of six do not – cup half full here, I think.

And because I wouldn’t dream of dictating how you age (!) here are my pointers to alleviating my own ageing.

  1. Being able to order shopping online. One of the major problems that we encountered when looking after our older folks (that’s my mum, my husband’s aunt and then a very ancient uncle) was who would do their food shopping when they were no longer able to go out? That was the catalyst for carers to come in for the aunt, and for my mum and the ancient uncle to go into care.
  1. Going on Facebook and using Twitter every day. I have daily conversations with people in the States, France, London, Bournemouth (!) and read and send tweets whenever. I’ve made good friends through Twitter. Now could this media alleviate some of the loneliness of old age? It might. And before anyone says I’m trivialising the experience of losing a partner or becoming housebound through frailty, social media could never replace a person or the immediacy of going out and about. But there is something about the active engagement with ideas, people, news, the arts, books, music, popular culture that social media provides that could continue when you are unable to get out into the outside world.
  1. Rooting myself into my community. It’s a bit run-down my town but I love it. And I know where I’m going to eat my meals when I want a break from cooking – our community centre has a great café and loads going on all just up the road from me.
  1. Loving your family and friends. I put them together because not everyone has a family. Every year I get one of those ghastly Christmas round robins from people who should know better (haven’t seen them in decades not years). And they have The Most Enormous family.  Both me and Mr Frugalfashionshopper are orphans – no parents, no siblings.  And for reasons I won’t go into, one Christmas our kids couldn’t come over for Christmas Day. I bloody cried when I got that round robin. I digress but I did go to friends before our solitary lunch. Be grateful, yes I am using that word, and love family and friends.
  1. Living in the moment and having fun – whatever that is for you.

That’s all for now, but do let me know your thoughts on ageing.

With love

Penny, The frugal fashion shopper

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11 thoughts on “Are you prepared for your ageing?

  • 19th November 2014 at 7:04 pm
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    Penny, thanks for this and I really liked it on so many fronts. My parents and both brothers are not alive any more and my own family is very small – one son. The round robin letters ( boasting books) sadden me as they are rarely about REAL things!

    My anti ageing ideas.

    – have regular adventures. I am walking the Kennet and Avon canal for 4 days soon,a solo trip, sleeping in youth hostels and b&bs. I know I will meet new and wonderful people, see amazing things and maybe feel a bit fearful and uncertain at times. I don’t want to get set in my ways.

    – volunteer. After a career as a social worker and finally policy manager I missed meeting people from different backgrounds. Volunteer dog walking allowed me to meet people who are housebound and reminded me how grateful I am that I can go out and about.

    – part time job. I work a very small number of hours in a prison library. Astonished to be appointed as library assistant at 61 years of age! Just love it. My knowledge of the judicial/penal system is growing each day.

    – Laugh, and when you have stopped laugh a bit more. Someone I know called laughter ‘internal jogging’…and I laughed at that too.

    Love your blog!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      20th November 2014 at 8:04 am
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      Hi Steph, yes, the article I read was in-depth and interesting but as always written by a younger than 60 (I bet) journalist. And the research that showed we over 60s don’t like looking too closely at the future. But I think it’s very, very important to grasp life now and live in the moment to the full. I love that you have regular adventures – sounds great. And the volunteering. My other half does more traditional volunteering in that he’s a Trustee to our local community centre but together we run a Film Society and that’s my volunteering, which is such brilliant fun.

      However, one thing about the future is that I hope to never ever let my daughter and son do as much work as my mother, and the other two, caused us – all given willingly by us, of course. And particularly I’ve said I will move myself into my final place or bring in carers, before it become a crisis. Will I do that? I truly hope so!

      In the meantime – yes, as much laughter as possible! x

  • 20th November 2014 at 2:12 pm
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    I agree it is surprising that everything seems so focussed on the young when the population is ageing. Even in writing it is the young who get all the breaks. I’d like to see a short story competition for over 60s as well as under 40s, because as AS Byatt remarked recently women often don’t have the confidence to really start pursuing their creative interests till they’re older and their children leave home. And we also buy most books! Having said that, the young are having a tough time too. I think it should work both ways: Society should value the experience and wisdom of older people, but also make sure we support and nurture the young.

    Also wanted to tell you I went into Capriccio’s in Lewes to get some more “magic trousers” – the last lot have lasted me about ten years (!) but are now losing shape.But they’ve replaced straight leg cords with thin stretchy shiny skinny things which I would not dream of wearing. So I went across the road to a charity shop and saw some very similar, but thicker and not shiny, and encouraged by your blog, decided to try them and they look good (at least I think so). So thanks Penny, and tell me what you think when you see them.

    Fiinally, I think the internet could be good but unfortunately technology changes so fast that older people find it hard to keep up. Now that it’s impossible to manage without a computer most older people I know rely on younger relatives to deal with online stuff. I wish someone would invent a really simple system that just did the basics for older people and didn’t keep changing with every upgrade. More is not necessarily better, and the new Windows drives me mad!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      24th November 2014 at 9:01 am
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      Hi Umi, and yes, I’d love to see a writing competition aimed at the older population. For me the blog is something I could never have done whilst working. I shocked a friend recently when I said I was finally the person I wanted to be, writing the blog, why ever, she said, did you not do what you wanted to do when you were younger – but life & earning a crust gets in the way, I said!!!! Yes, life is tough for all ages, but think that it’s much tougher for the young/mid age now than it was in our day – jobs, houses, both so much easier to get then.

      Looking forward to seeing the trousers – I always got clothes in Capriccio when I was working but never go in now, partly due to the cost but also I see the clothes as too baggy! That charity shop across the road is ace, as is the one a bit further down near the junction with Station Road.

      As for IT – hopefully as we age, we’ll manage the IT ourselves and not have to rely on our kids. But upgrades, yes, I don’t like them either. Bill can sort Windows for you (Windows 8, if that’s what you mean). Have you got a Mac?? They’re better.

  • 20th November 2014 at 2:12 pm
    Permalink

    I agree it is surprising that everything seems so focussed on the young when the population is ageing. Even in writing it is the young who get all the breaks. I’d like to see a short story competition for over 60s as well as under 40s, because as AS Byatt remarked recently women often don’t have the confidence to really start pursuing their creative interests till they’re older and their children leave home. And we also buy most books! Having said that, the young are having a tough time too. I think it should work both ways: Society should value the experience and wisdom of older people, but also make sure we support and nurture the young.

    Also wanted to tell you I went into Capriccio’s in Lewes to get some more “magic trousers” – the last lot have lasted me about ten years (!) but are now losing shape.But they’ve replaced straight leg cords with thin stretchy shiny skinny things which I would not dream of wearing. So I went across the road to a charity shop and saw some very similar, but thicker and not shiny, and encouraged by your blog, decided to try them and they look good (at least I think so). So thanks Penny, and tell me what you think when you see them.

    Fiinally, I think the internet could be good but unfortunately technology changes so fast that older people find it hard to keep up. Now that it’s impossible to manage without a computer most older people I know rely on younger relatives to deal with online stuff. I wish someone would invent a really simple system that just did the basics for older people and didn’t keep changing with every upgrade. More is not necessarily better, and the new Windows drives me mad!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      24th November 2014 at 9:01 am
      Permalink

      Hi Umi, and yes, I’d love to see a writing competition aimed at the older population. For me the blog is something I could never have done whilst working. I shocked a friend recently when I said I was finally the person I wanted to be, writing the blog, why ever, she said, did you not do what you wanted to do when you were younger – but life & earning a crust gets in the way, I said!!!! Yes, life is tough for all ages, but think that it’s much tougher for the young/mid age now than it was in our day – jobs, houses, both so much easier to get then.

      Looking forward to seeing the trousers – I always got clothes in Capriccio when I was working but never go in now, partly due to the cost but also I see the clothes as too baggy! That charity shop across the road is ace, as is the one a bit further down near the junction with Station Road.

      As for IT – hopefully as we age, we’ll manage the IT ourselves and not have to rely on our kids. But upgrades, yes, I don’t like them either. Bill can sort Windows for you (Windows 8, if that’s what you mean). Have you got a Mac?? They’re better.

  • 23rd November 2014 at 4:46 pm
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    This was thoughtful, Penny. I don’t share all your angst over computers, however. I volunteer to teach Elder College, and lots of the courses are on computer (and camera and cell phone) use. Such volunteer courses could be done practically anywhere. I find that once a student learns how to do email and skype they can manage for a very long time especially if they have their own laptop or computer (which of course, a lot do not have). There is no need to keep up with the newest ones…and used older ones can be purchased. There are magnifying overlays which can enlarge the look of the keyboard. I know someone doing quite well at 102. But your ideas regarding services brought to the elderly interest me enormously. There is a huge need out there and I think we all agree we want to stay home AS LONG AS WE CAN.
    You may not have been talking about fashion this time, but you did it with STYLE. Thank you!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      24th November 2014 at 8:43 am
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      Hi Margaret and thank you so much. And great to hear you teach IT. My husband teaches IT to older people (mid70s to 90s) and they mostly embrace IT to communicate (emails, Skpye etc) but on the whole they don’t want to purchase items or do their food shopping, and they say, oh no, I prefer to get it myself – I’ve been in a class and heard that said. Then I have several friends my age (late 60s and younger) who completely reject all forms of IT, particularly social media, and they wouldn’t even begin to countenance food shopping. My view is that’s very shortsighted as that skill is there to help you, as you say, stay in your home as long as possible, because that inability to go shopping is the catalyst for so much more.

      All the very best to you

  • 23rd November 2014 at 4:46 pm
    Permalink

    This was thoughtful, Penny. I don’t share all your angst over computers, however. I volunteer to teach Elder College, and lots of the courses are on computer (and camera and cell phone) use. Such volunteer courses could be done practically anywhere. I find that once a student learns how to do email and skype they can manage for a very long time especially if they have their own laptop or computer (which of course, a lot do not have). There is no need to keep up with the newest ones…and used older ones can be purchased. There are magnifying overlays which can enlarge the look of the keyboard. I know someone doing quite well at 102. But your ideas regarding services brought to the elderly interest me enormously. There is a huge need out there and I think we all agree we want to stay home AS LONG AS WE CAN.
    You may not have been talking about fashion this time, but you did it with STYLE. Thank you!

    • the frugal fashion shopper
      24th November 2014 at 8:43 am
      Permalink

      Hi Margaret and thank you so much. And great to hear you teach IT. My husband teaches IT to older people (mid70s to 90s) and they mostly embrace IT to communicate (emails, Skpye etc) but on the whole they don’t want to purchase items or do their food shopping, and they say, oh no, I prefer to get it myself – I’ve been in a class and heard that said. Then I have several friends my age (late 60s and younger) who completely reject all forms of IT, particularly social media, and they wouldn’t even begin to countenance food shopping. My view is that’s very shortsighted as that skill is there to help you, as you say, stay in your home as long as possible, because that inability to go shopping is the catalyst for so much more.

      All the very best to you

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