Category Archives: Seniors

Mandatory retirement: Airing views on National Radio

I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on Mandatory Retirement on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE Radio 1. (For readers outside of Ireland, RTE Radio is the Radio arm of the Irish national public service broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann and the Marian Finucane show is one of Ireland’s highest rated weekend programs.)

On the panel with me to discuss personal impacts of mandatory retirement in Ireland were a former mechanic/fireman with the Fire Service in Sligo, Victor Martin who had to retire at age 55,  Pat Wallace, former Director of the National Museum of Ireland, who was compelled to take early retirement,  and myself who had to retire from the civil service at age 65.

Although shaking with nerves, it was a huge thrill for me to be on the Marian Finucane programme. I have been an ardent fan and follower for many years. Researcher Katriona McFadden and producer Ronan Lawlor were most reassuring and helpful, so huge thanks to them!

The discussion can be heard here on the RTE Player which is available worldwide, and begins just a few minutes in after a review of newspaper headlines.

I would like to add a special word of thanks to Kathleen Sharkey (nee Murphy) my school friend from 1961 to 1966 who accompanied me to the RTE Studios and helped calm my nerves. I was visiting her home in County Louth when the invitation came to participate in the programme.  Thank you Kathleen!

Age Action Ireland continues to advocate for a change to the mandatory retirement in Ireland.

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Filed under Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors

Leaving the world behind #5 – The kindness of strangers

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. This series of posts are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The kindness of strangers.

Totally immobile and in need of help with basics like food preparation, managing stairs, showering etc, the knowledge that I could not go home after surgery dawned slowly but surely. Added to this, a cocktail of pain relieving narcotics frequently resulted in ‘out of body’ type sensations, such as floating and light headedness, or something similar to having had one or two too many glasses of wine, so a solution had to be found. This being that I  would be transferred from hospital to a care facility for 6 weeks until such time as the  plaster cast could be removed and a boot put in its place to prevent weight bearing.

The transfer itself was interesting.  In and out of elevators and wheeled along endless hospital corridors by ambulance crews, we ended up in what looked like a back yard with bins and sundry stuff  lying about. It was lashing rain. The ambulance was parked some distance away and we had to make a dash for it. Brian and Kate were both deeply apologetic that I had to be run through the rain as they could not park any nearer the door! Apparently I was fortunate that this was high summer and not the depths of winter with hailstones and high winds to contend with.

The care facility turned out to be a nursing home populated mainly by elderly and staffed, in the main, by some of the loveliest and kindest human beings I have ever met. Mainly Phillipino men and women, the nursing staff were always smiling, always kind, always helpful, always concerned and always attentive. These people were thousands of miles from their families, yet appreciated that they had jobs, could work and look after the family at home in the Phillipines. One of the senior nurses had worked in Ireland for 15 years. Her husband and 8 children were at home, while the two youngest were with her in Ireland.  Another had been in Ireland for 8 years while his wife and children remained in the Phillipines. He tries to get home once a year to see them. A few of them also had other jobs, caring for elderly in their own home, or perhaps working a shift in another establishment so they could look after their families on the other side of the world.  If asked about their family at home, the tears would well up in their eyes, yet they always had a smile and you would never think that they had such sadness to deal with on a daily basis. 11,500 kilometers is a huge distance between spouses and children.

The care assistants were mostly local young girls, students working through their holidays from nursing or other courses at university. At a guess, the average age of the assistants was about 20 years, desperately young to be caring for older people I thought. But I was wrong. I have never seen such affection and gentleness as these young girls had for the people in their care.

An elderly man, hands gnarled and with his back almost doubled over with arthritis, holds on to one of them, shuffling along as she gently guides him to the comfort of a big armchair in the sitting room. His face is expressionless, he does not speak, yet she talks away to him, encouraging him to take every step.

A frail white haired lady with a walking frame is gently guided towards the dining room; the short journey along the corridor from her room taking all of five minutes but is filled with cheerful banter from the carer about the beautiful flowers by her bedside. There is no response.

Flowers. Guaranteed to lift the spirits. (Image the silver voice)


A girl, who I discovered is all of 19 years old, wheels a profoundly disabled man to lunch in his huge wheelchair with lots of equipment attached. She chats away in an imaginary one sided conversation, and you would hope that he heard what she is saying even if he cannot respond.

At the weekly singalong, a young girl delights a profoundly incapacitated man in a wheelchair by holding his face and singing ‘You are my sunshine’ at close range. Only his gladdened eyes seemed to register what was happening.

A man who has lost his mobile phone for the fifth time in as many hours is distracted by a young girl who invites him to go out to the garden to look at flowers. He forgets his phone and follows her obediently as she expertly distracts him from his huge concern about the phone which  is not in fact lost at all.

All of this personal care is in addition to changing beds, helping patients get up and dressed for the day, serving meals, showering patients, providing cups of tea, all so willingly done, often on 12 hours shifts and on the minimum wage of just over 9 Euro an hour.

disco

Disco Girls (By Dossier – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29792495)

At the end of their shift on a Saturday night these young girls change into their disco gear, apply their make up and false eyelashes, don short short skirts, do their hair ( one, a brunette in uniform even had long grey tresses), splash on the scent  and head off for a night on the town. They look the same as all the other young things at the pub or disco, but believe me these fabulous girls on minimum wage are making a huge difference to many lives!

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Emigrants from other countries, Ireland, Life in a Nursing Home, Seniors

Leaving the world behind #3 – Company in Bed

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. This series of posts are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

Company in Bed

Following surgery on my broken leg I was transferred to a care facility by ambulance, to await further orthapaedic treatment. I was quite pleased to discover that I had been allocated a private room with a private bathroom. It smelt peculiar and slightly unpleasant but I resolved to ask if the bathroom might be swabbed down with bleach to freshen  it up. A small window did not allow much light in as it was only about two feet from a high wall, but as I later learned I was very fortunate to have a window at all and doubly fortunate to have a room of my own.

Exhausted after the transfer between institutions and delighted to have some bit of privacy after the 6 bed ward of the acute hospital, I settled into bed early with the TV for company and eventually dozed off.

During the night I became aware that there was someone in the room, and not only in the room, but climbing into the bottom of my bed. ‘Hello’ said he in a very quiet and friendly voice. ‘H..h..h..h..hello’ I blurted as he continued to climb in next to my plaster cast leg as I wondered if I should strike him with it. I said that I thought perhaps he was in the wrong  room, but he told me that I was in HIS bed. All the while I was fumbling for the emergency button and was grateful that at least he was climbing in to the bottom of the bed and not the top end!


After some minutes, help arrived and he was coaxed out of my bed and led back to his own space, further along the corridor.  Apparently he had a tendency to wander and he was regularly retrieved from beds that were not his own as he was confused.

It was an eye opening experience on my first night in a care facility, where patients who were physically capable of wandering about are free to do so.  I was immobile in the bed, with only my heavily plastered leg as a weapon to protect my honour! A close call indeed!

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Leaving the world behind #2 – Meeting Old Nick

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

Anastasia and Old Nick.

Anastasia was a truly lovely lady. She was here on a voluntary basis, had settled into her new home and was very content. She was shrewdly observant and made her way to the so called Library after tea each evening where she held court!  She was very proud of the fact that her parents were of a mixed marriage but that her father had insisted the children were all raised Roman Catholics.

She was one of many I met in here who was happy with her lot, content to be someplace where her needs were seen to, where she did not have to worry about looking after herself, about shopping for meals, about doctor appointments, about taking her medicines at the correct times. I do not recall her having had any visitors when I was there. Perhaps she had no immediate family nearby.

She usually announced her arrival in the ‘library’ with the immortal words: ‘Do you believe’? My standard reply was ‘In what? ‘, ‘In ‘Old Nick’ of course’ she would answer. ‘And who on earth is Old Nick?’ I would ask, knowing full well what she meant. ‘Old Nick is the Devil himself ‘ she said and  ‘If you don’t believe in him, he will come to get you’.

Anastasia felt especially safe in her bed at night as a priest had been the previous occupant.  He had been given the Last Rites and died in that bed that was now hers. ‘Can you imagine the prayers that were said in that bed’ she would say? Old  Nick would not dare go near her there!

Every night after my first meeting with Anastasia I wondered who had occupied this bed that was now mine, hopefully temporarily.  How many had slept here?  Had they died? Had they been anointed? And how many were priests?

I will be glad to get back to my own bed, that I have owned from new and that has not been an anointed death bed.

I need to get out of here!

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Filed under Ireland, Life in a Nursing Home, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Seniors

Leaving the world behind #1 – the ancient mariner. 

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The Ancient Mariner

Tall and distinguished, gold chain hanging from a waistcoat pocket, white shirt, with a perfectly knotted tie and wearing an exquisitely cut grey mohair suit, he arrives to the ‘library’. Probably in his 80s but looking younger, he is walking with a crutch, held backwards. He studies the library shelves, tilting his head slightly to one side to read titles on the vertical spines. Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy, Patricia Cornwell do not stir any interest. Ian Rankin, Nelson DeMille, Andy McNab? No! The so-called Library consists of two lots of shelves in a chair lined room, with a table on one wall, covered in white linen.

He makes return trips on several consecutive days after his first arrival. The mohair suit and the beautifully knotted tie, to my surprise, are evident each day too. How long before these sartorial  items will be replaced by track suit bottoms and a tee shirt?

Sitting in the corner of a ‘library’ in a care facility, I observe the comings and goings of older people who must leave the world behind when they pass through the locked door. Some for weeks, some for longer, some forever. I wait for my broken leg to heal over possibly six weeks. In six weeks I hope to be on the outside again. Will he ever be back out there to choose his very own reading material, to peruse his own bookshelves for his reading of choice?

He turns and walks towards other shelves and I catch a glimpse of a hearing aid. Other residents are being escorted to the dining room for the last meal of the day, some walking with support, some in wheelchairs, some slowly making their own way on legs that are no longer strong. ‘What  do you like to read’ I ask, quite loudly. ‘SEX’ he responds, in as strong a voice as I have heard within these walls!  ‘ I don’t  think you will find much of that here’ I respond as he goes back to scrutinise the book shelves only feet away from a table shrouded in white linen, adorned with artificial flowers and a pair of  extinguished candles, that lies in wait for the weekly Wednesday morning mass.

SEX. Nothing could be further from life in a care home, in a nursing home, in a home for the elderly. Yet this man seeks it on the few miserable book shelves, populated by popular fiction, easy reading, chick lit, in all likelihood donated on a charitable basis by family of the patients.  What, after all would an older person want? What else could they be expected to read? Several times a day he returns to the bookshelves, almost in disbelief. Where are the books he is interested in? Where are the books suitable for a single former merchant navy seaman on these shelves beside the stark white linen altar, prepared for mass? Bent in disappointment, he swings his reversed crutch and klonks his way towards the dining room.

I need  to get out of here.

 

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Seniors

On Growing Old

In my previous post on Retirement: Smelling roses, enjoying brandy and learning to spit, I quoted the Jenny Joseph poem When I Grow Old.
My friend Chris has crafted her much more elegant and stylish aspirations into a thoughtful poem for the distant day when she arrives in that time in her life.  I think it’s a beautiful poem that deserves to be widely read!

WHEN I GROW OLD…

WHEN I GROW OLD….
When I grow old, I will not long for youth,
rather I will celebrate what has gone before
and look forward to what each day brings.
I will enjoy the company of myself, as well as that of family and friends..
of new discoveries, of revisiting old interests and developing new ones.
I will revel in choosing yes or no or maybe.. without guilt or reason.
I will enjoy friendships, both near and far….
I will take time to watch butterflies flit among the flowers
and listen to bird song every day…
I will drench myself in summer showers..
and sing in the moonlight…
I will write what I wish and read all I can…
Silken threads will be my palette
as I create simple things of beauty…
I will surround myself with roses and violets and daisies
I will bake at midnight if I wish
and eat fruit and cream for tea…
When I grow old, I will be me…
 (c)Crissouli Jan 24, 2016
Inspired by the post of my friend… Angela…
Thank you Chris!
You can read more of her musings at The Back Fence of Genealogy .

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Healthy Living, Ireland, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Retirement Age, Seniors

Retirement: Smelling roses, enjoying brandy and learning to spit!

This is the third and final post on this trilogy on Retirement. My last two posts (here and here ) were  concerned with the very serious matters of mandatory retirement and the financial and social deprivation that were for me, the immediate fallout. March 2016 will see the 3rd anniversary of my compulsory retirement. The road was indeed a rocky one, and full of potholes, but now that I have travelled along it for a while, I have slipped into a ‘Third Age’ mentality and somehow seamlessly adapted to a life without the early morning alarm clock!

Some years ago my friend moved to live in London and I was amused by this little ditty that hung in her bathroom. Nicely framed, it was strategically placed so that any visiting females could not miss it.

WARNING!

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

——–Jenny Joseph.

During the early weeks of retirement I read this poem again several times. Cares and woes can certainly knock the stuffing out of anyone. Should I let them do just that and should I then go about running a stick along the railings, driving everyone mad? Clack, clack, clackclackclackclack clack, clack clackclackclack? A possible option, for sure!

BUT, this was NOT for me! I needed to re-evaluate, to re energize, to REINVENT myself if need be. And so I took every single opportunity to be away from home or in the company of others. During my first summer of ‘retirement’ I plied the length and breath of Ireland attending conferences and talks, popping into Museums and Galleries, going to beautiful places near home that deserved investigation, discovering things I did not know, rediscovering things I did know. If there were free events, so much the better. The budget was stretched as tight as a bodhran skin, but one or two fewer visits to the hairdressers was ok, and I never really minded beans on toast as a meal, and miracle of miracles—you do need fewer clothes when you don’t have to go to work! So on went the jeans and the comfy jacket…. and away I went!

A trip to Australia to spend time with my daughter and her family worked its magic…maybe this retirement isn’t so bad after all, with no worries about using up precious leave! The following year, having reached my 66th birthday I became eligible for free travel travel in Ireland and this opened up a whole new world…a day away in Dublin to go to the theatre, a day strolling around Galway, a day shopping in Cork or a day enjoying the festival in Tralee…all for free!

It took about a year to adjust to not having to rise at 6.30 each morning. During that transition year I discovered the gift of TIME that I now have in abundance. I use it as far as I can to improve my changed life. There is time to seek out and select bargains, time  for long slow cooking and tasty recipes, time to walk, time to read, time to spend hours in the swimming pool, time to exercise, time to catch up with friends, time to do some volunteering work, time to study and learn new things, and time to smell the roses!

I have not yet spent my pension on brandy, but I do have time to enjoy the occasional glass and as for ‘learning to spit’ – I am working on that – figuratively speaking of course!

(Clipart Image)

I plan on wearing purple!

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Older Generation, Poetry, Retirement Age, Seniors