The Other I

October 21, 2011

We never had it so good

Filed under: Growing Old — theotheri @ 8:21 pm

There is an ongoing debate here in Britain over whether the elderly should have to sell their homes and help defray the cost of their care if they need to move into a care home.  A recent report published earlier this week has also suggested that the elderly should be encouraged to sell the homes they are currently living in and move into some place smaller in order to help alleviate the housing shortage here in Britain.

I personally have no problem whatsoever with selling our home if we can no longer live in it and need care.  I’m not convinced that the elderly selling their homes, however, would help solve the housing problem.  It is the buyers at the entrance level of the housing market who are having trouble affording a mortgage and I  can’t see that more big houses on the market is the essential solution.

But that is not so much what concerns me about this report.

What concerns me are many of the comments made in response to it.   The tone often suggests that the elderly are nothing more than a useless burden who are hogging all the resources and depriving the young of the opportunities they themselves had received.  “The elderly,” for some, are all post-world-war II baby boomers who were able to buy inexpensive homes and are now sitting on a fortune and sponging off the taxpayers who are paying for their pensions.  “They don’t need more than one room now,” said one comment.  “Make them move over and make room for us.”

These comments do not seem to realize that the oldest baby-boomer is by definition not more than 65 years old.  Anybody older than that was born either during or before the war.   For many of these people, “having it so good” for these elderly was five people living in two rooms and sleeping in bed with ones parents until puberty.  It meant no electricity, an outside toilet, and bathing in a tin tub in front of the fire in the kitchen-cum-living room.  It sometimes meant going to the neighbours to ask for food.  It meant shivering in bomb shelters all night, and discovering the next day that a bomb had gone through your friend’s bed or that your grandmother was buried in the house that had been demolished in the attack.

I wasn’t going to write about ageism today, but a New Yorker made a comment on my earlier post Frankly, my dear, and suggested I might like to read his article,  An Elder’s Manifesto.  I did read it, and found myself almost stuttering as I repeated “Yes!” in enthusiastic agreement.

The gist of it is that trading off the last stage of our lives as irrelevant, incoherent, useless, without joy or meaning is a huge mistake – whether the assessment is being made by the young who think they will never get to that ghastly condition called “old,” or by the elderly themselves who think their best years are over.

Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience that they aren’t.

These have been among the happiest years of my life.  Different from the kind of happy one experiences in youth.  But just as intense.  And a lot less conflicted and anxiety-ridden.

I definitely recommend it.

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