Tag Archives: Older people

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

Getting Started with Age Action

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One-on -one informal learning at Age Action Getting Started programme.

One of the smartest moves I ever made in my life was to engage with modern technology. Computers, iPads, laptops, smartphones are far removed from my childhood experience of growing up in a rural area of north Donegal where we did not even have electricity. Our ‘wireless’ as our radio was then called, crackled away on the windowsill, running off big glass wet batteries!

The Internet is an amazing and beneficial global communication tool and one which often, regrettably, is not used by many of  my generation.  It used to be available only at fixed locations, such as in an office or a home. Now the word ‘wireless’  has a whole new meaning as it allows people on the move to have access to this great means of communication.  It is vital that older people get into in this ‘new fangled stuff’ as it has the potential to change their lives in so many ways. In my case, it allowed me, living in relative rural isolation and with most of my family in Australia, to keep in contact with them for little or no cost, to make life simpler by doing such things as booking flights and hotels online, listening back to radio programmes I may have missed, and doing business such as paying bills and ordering goods online . It is a total life changer for older people.

Home

Age Action, aware that older people often face ‘digital exclusion’ have devised training for older people on a one to one basis across a range of devices. Since 2006 Age Action has trained almost 30,000 people to get engaged with this life changing form of communication.  I am particularly delighted to be involved in that activity as a volunteer  trainer. Today in Midleton, Co. Cork we began our four-week training sessions  in the local community centre.  A great time was had, and I  look forward to the next number of weeks encouraging others to share in the benefits of being online.

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Students and trainers get down to business

Age Action runs classes in Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, Louth, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Sligo, Cork, Kilkenny and Waterford and classes are also available in Meath, Westmeath, Clare, Kildare, Wexford, Galway, Kerry. – See more at: https://www.ageaction.ie/how-we-can-help/getting-started-computer-training/

 

 

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Filed under Ireland

Don’t Stop Me Now!


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This very arresting title headlined an article in Woman’s Way magazine in which I was featured a couple of weeks ago, resulting from an interview/long conversation with the journalist Arlene Harris. Arlene was trying to discover how the lives of people have changed since our younger days and how they are so different to the lives of younger people today, and indeed older people of just a few decades ago because of our attitudes and most of all because of modern technology.
Being featured  with Marie O’Gorman, the renowned Skype Queen and great-grandmother was a real privilege. Imagine teaching your grandchildren to knit on Skype! Marie is a great example of someone who grasped modern technology with both hands, knowing that it would enhance her life and reduce social isolation and shorten the distance between her home in Ireland and her daughter’s home in Armenia.
My own life has been totally transformed by social media and I am fortunate to have as close friends people who live in Australia and the United States. I have met some of these wonderful people in person, and it is as though we have known one another all of our lives. One very special lady has visited me in Ireland and stayed at my home, while I meet other followers on social media on a regular basis at events and confereces across the country..  The encouragement and support of other social media users is phenomenal and can only have a positive effect on older people who may otherwise be living in social isolation.
I am very grateful to Age Action for the inspiration and encouragement to keep going as a ‘Silver Surfer’ and for the excellent programmes they have in place to encourage older people to engage with technology especially through their ‘Getting Started’ classes that run across Ireland. Age Action also co-ordinates U3A , which is an abbreviation for University of the Third Age. I like to think of these as ‘Discovery’ programmes for older people where we can learn from our peers in  the University of Life by sharing skills and life experiences. Bingo and sing alongs are wonderful for many of our generation but are not for everyone. How about outings to historic places, museums, art galleries,concerts, theatre events,long walks or short holidays abroad? The world really is our  oyster!
And a huge ‘thank you’ to Woman’s Way for featuring  Silver Surfers  and spreading the message of a whole new world that is there to be explored in our later years! !
The text of the full Woman’s Way article can be read here  180815 Women’s Way article. (Published with permission). My photo is  by the very talented Eva Birdthistle in Limerick .

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Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Living in Ireland, Loneliness, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Social Change