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OLD PEOPLE: We walk straight past them. We ignore them.

By Keith Davis

They sit on park benches catching a few rays, and we walk straight past them. They lounge on benches in our shopping malls, and we walk straight past them. They fumble their cards a bit at the ATM, and we sigh with impatience, and then walk straight past them. We treat them as though they do not exist.

And who are these invisible ghosts who we consign to the back alleys of our visual and emotional landscapes? Who are these people that we avert our eyes from, and from whom we with-hold the warmth of human contact. They are our old, our elderly, our doddery, and our frail. Many of them are welfare recipients. They are our old people.

And they carry around, within them, this amazingly rich repository of human experience, and we walk straight past it. Once they were children, once they were lovers, once they were activists, once they were workers or employers, once they were vital contributors to the vibrancy of Australian life, once they were perfection and imperfection rolled into one.

Perhaps they fought in Vietnam, or fought against our fight in Vietnam. Perhaps they experienced free-love and opened their consciousness to the beauty of the Age of Aquarius, or perhaps they had reasons for not doing that. Perhaps they demonstrated against the madness of nuclear proliferation and mutual assured destruction, or the scourge of Apartheid, or perhaps they did other things.

They certainly talked and loved; they certainly drank far too much red wine, and said many wonderful and silly inane things; they certainly enjoyed the sheer joy of friendships; they certainly wanted to make the world a better place for their children; they certainly also cried and grieved, and learnt to live with loss, or not.

And so we ignore them, we walk straight past them, and we consign them to the soullessness of sterile blue-walled rooms in nursing homes, and the hardness of isolated park benches.

Only a blip of time separates us from our old people, and soon enough we will be them, and sitting alone in those parks, and left sitting un-visited in our nursing homes.

So let’s engage them, let’s talk with them, let’s share in the richness of their human experience before their fading away becomes irretrievably permanent.

Open your eyes, open your heart, and never again walk straight past them!

 

25 comments

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  1. keerti

    And be greatful! The world has advanced considerable in many ways since we were children in the forties, and fifties.

  2. Michael Taylor

    And in my case the 80s. :mrgreen:

  3. Rafe Falkiner

    John Prines “Hello in there” started playing in my head as I read this

  4. RoaminRuin

    Nice sentiments Keith. As a child of the 50s and 60s I am segueing into geezerdom so I get where you’re coming from. But Let me tell ya, I am not going to do it gracefully. I am going the full geezer. Flat cap. Untidy grey beard. Pants worn too high. Odd socks. Driving under the speed limit. In the right lane. The next telemarketer is going to be engaged in lengthy anecdotes about my health. I will reminisce, unasked, about the good old days. I want a newspaper and books not another frkn screen. I will continue to appreciate irony, sarcasm and non-PC jokes. I do not expect the world to be interested in my latest lunch. I do not expect the world to be interested in me at all. I have maybe 10 – 20 people I call friends, not 970. I will not take selfies. The world owes me nothing. I appreciate what I have and I appreciate what a lucky bastard I have been.

    I belong to a generation that grew with technology. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Time Berners-Lee are/were baby boomers. We know this stuff. But it serves us, we are not slaves to it. And if the later generations couldn’t be bothered to look up from their screens to say “G’day” well then screw ’em.

  5. richard grant

    Goin on daily walks I have made a number of friends who are interesting and we have great conversations and many laughs. I think they enjoy the conversations and they have a wealth of information. they are treasure’s

  6. Makeourvoiceheard.com

    Not just old people, but more and more people feel socially isolated just now. However, I think we have to get and give permission in this world of fear, to encourage more social interaction. I proposed such an idea here to encourage political discourse, though it would be easy to adapt to fit this issue, for example – any opinions welcome. http://Www.makeourvoiceheard.com/campaign/getting-our-community-back

  7. bobrafto

    A nice little rant from the heart,
    and if you will pardon me since I’ve caught your mood, I will begin.

    I hit 66 this year and of course we all have ailments and we do tend to compare them with our friends. It’s almost like a competition of who has the most ailments.

    Anyway, I do not want to bore you with my ailments, except to say I don’t look too bad for my age and I just want to relate this story of mine from a couple of weeks ago.

    Every Monday and Thursday, I take my land lady shopping in her car, they took her licence away, too old they said.

    So it was on a Thursday morning hunting down the specials in Woolies then onto Aldi and then to finish off the unholy trinity we ended up in Coles, I had done my shopping and I was browsing the front pages of the newspapers while waiting for my land lady to finish hunting some more specials.

    I was really engrossed in a story that I can’t remember when I was interrupted by a voice saying “Can I buy you the paper?”

    I looked up to see a middle aged lady and her shopping trolley beside her and replied “Why would you want to do that?

    And she said that she thought that I was poor and I couldn’t afford the paper and then I said you are very kind, thank you but I get my news on the internet.

    Then she left to navigate through the aisles.

    Of course my mind started questioning my appearance, I was wearing a brand new hunted down pure wool jumper from Aldi an absolute bargain for $9. Clean jeans, and new hunted down runners from Aldi at $13, clean shaven and my hair combed back in a ponytail, so how could I’ve looked poor, despite the fact that I am but only in that filthy lucre. One couldn’t be anything else being dependent on the pension.

    Later on I thought, maybe I should have asked if she had a spare ten grand, damned hindsight, as I’m making unfunded plans to get to New York by Xmas.

    Yea, I still have those hippie yearnings, although I don’t think I had that much free love though and I really didn’t have long hair in those days but I’m making up for it now, down past my shoulders, but this is from necessity rather than nostalgia, the long hair keeps my neck warm to ward off those arthritic pains and also to keep my ears warm.

    One other thing I didn’t do in those days was to engage in political protesting and I took that up for a year at the age of 60 while being intimidated by Mayor Newman and his Rapid Response Group who handed out to me $5,000 move on notices like drunken sailors and a $500 fine for having a political poster deeming it to be advertising and in a way I was advertising Campbell Newman Can Do Fraud, with Can Do attired in women’s underwear. And I also was intimidated by the cops big time.

    Ahhh! such is life!

  8. Bacchus

    The 1880s Michael? :mrgreen:

  9. mmc1949

    bobrafto …. Hair brushed back in a ponytail? Is there any hair on top of your head? I’m afraid “bald with ponytail” is a bit of a ‘dero’ look. Sorry, but you were wondering :-/

  10. corvus boreus

    RoaminRuin,
    I hope you will reconsider one aspect of your defiant raging against the dimming of the light, namely the slow driving in the (left side of) right hand lane. This is not exclusive to codgers and fogeys, but is a pointless act of oblivious foolishness practiced by wankers of all age demographics.
    If you want an exclusively geezerish driving style, try this one; when on suburban streets, drive close to the gutter at 30km/hr, occasionally swerving out into the middle as you approach parked cars.

  11. kizhmet

    I loved this article Keith – thank you. I wear a lot of the ’50’s style skirts and dresses. Can’t count how many times I have been stopped by ladies born in my mum’s generation (mum is 80 this year) commenting on my skirts. I even get (arguably much needed) fashion advice. These interactions bring a smile to face every time and remind me it costs nothing to say something nice. I do make an effort to pay the compliment forward.

    My involvement with craft groups is a consistent reminder that the talent, skill and experience of the older generation is invaluable – and a diminishing resource.

  12. townsvilleblog

    The victims of unregulated capitalism, we must look for a better, fairer and more equitable system by which to run our nation, the Nordic countries practice democratic socialism and seem to have a high living standard?

  13. Pilot

    Yep, being old is fun!
    Although forcibly retired, I still get about local businesses helping them out with problems – my analytical skills are still with me, also sneering at the misguided youth who consider it prudent to show their bum crack or their undies hitched up like they just copped a wedgy (Prison Bitch Syndrome). I’ve also watched prime ministers and governments come and go and for the life of me, I can’t understand why Australians have become so greedy and self-centred, so bigoted and fascist. Luckily, except for some closed groups, racism is diminishing. We’ve seen it all, but are considered blots on the landscape, hopeless cases and sponges on society, a society we had a hand in creating, a culture we had a hand in shaping….. Where did we go wrong?

    So, as you pass us by and consider us as useless, think again! We were and still can be a benefit to society. We have knowledge that no one seems to want, we have experiences of a lifetime of successes and failures. We have learnt, we have educated, we have built, we have influenced, but now we are old, and as we speak no one listens, no one cares, no one wants us. We want us!! We are not the suppository of all knowledge, we are experience, we are knowledge, we are an example of how it can be done, because we have done it!

    We invented computers, we invented hacking, we invented the bloody internet. Everything that is around today was invented or perfected by us old farts.

    Finally here’s my tip for the future. Do not, ever again vote an openly racist, fascist, bigoted, misogynistic lying government into power. Lies perpetuate lies and do no good for anyone except other liars. People who believe those lies or Murdoch Press are useless to this country. Those who spew racism and bigotry are not worth the spit in their mouths or an audience for their hatred. Australia was built on a foundation of the belief in a fair go for all, support for those who need it, the presumption of innocence, the right to trial before your peers. These tenets have been lost. A sad, sad day for Australia. And many of us old farts abhor our flag being waved by racists, bigots and fascists who claim to be speaking for all Australians. That, dear readers is why we are proud to be old… We’ve made it this far and we’ll probably see a lot of the younger Australians die through drugs and suicide brought on by a perceived lack of future for themselves, before we depart this World.

    Another thing, many of us have worn the khaki or olive drab and served our country (Auscam wasn’t around in those days), respected all within and many laid down their lives for this country (Lest We Forget). Those surviving wonder how the hell Australia will survive with some of the ding dongs we have running this country (on both sides).

    I may not be able to walk very far these days, by my other faculties are still all there, and still active.

    Now finally two pieces of advice:
    1. DON’T SMOKE!!!! Just do not smoke. If you smoke now, please do whatever it takes to give it away! It isn’t impossible, it just takes time.
    2. Do not take synthetic drugs! None, narda, nil, zip, zero. They will screw you up, and we do not want that. If you need drugs, see a bloody doctor, not your local dealer!! This dealer is using you to support his/her illegal lifestyle. That’s bullshit! Tell ’em to go screw up someone else’s life, you need all your brain cells for a comfortable future. There is no future in drugs……. Trust me… please, just trust me.

  14. roaminruin

    corvus boreus – i take your point. Stay left!

  15. David

    Great post and it would be wonderful if that excellent advice went directly to the top, to abbott and his Govt who are experts in demonising the elderly. Incidentally the lack of a capital A in abbotts name is deliberate, he does not get that respect from me ever again. Only a small thing but important to me.

  16. David Bruce

    all of the above, but I don’t have much time for sunning in the park. My mum is 92, and I have many opportunities to work with past students here and overseas now…

  17. bobrafto

    mmc
    This is wot u call a ponytail and that’s me, a selfie
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203758462654541&set=pcb.10203758509335708&type=1&theater and there’s no grey hairs on my chest or below not that it makes any difference as I enjoy the peacefulness of my own company up on a mountain top and refusing to listen to any distracting siren calls and besides I’m on a mission and expect to come down from this mount with a tablet in my hands, it weighs 4kilo’s.

    I might be poor in cash but I’m rich with a fertile imagination that will turn things around with my tablet.

    We will see what we shall see come Xmas.

  18. Michael Taylor

    1880s!!!!!!

  19. bobrafto

    Pilot

    Spot on mate!

    I too have trouble walking, I even trip on an even floor due to a drop foot and I can’t lift anything heavy.

    I had a back op which was successful for 3 days about 10 years ago and been in constant pain since.

    This little incident happened about 6 years ago.

    I was walking down Elizabeth St on my way to the medicare office to claim back some cash from cat scans I had. One section of the footpath I was walking on was closed and was directed to cross the street onto the other footpath. Walking was an effort and I was in pain and I was in no mood to cross that road, so I started walking around the barricade only to be confronted by a bogan worker who threatened to bash me if I didn’t cross the road, I don’t think I said a word and stepped around him and made my way to the Myer centre where the medicare office was.

    After I finished with medicare, I started my way back to my car but on the opposite side of the barricade, as I was walking I spotted the bogan who wanted to bash me, I whistled at him and he turned around to look at me giving him the bird and as soon as I did this I tripped going headlong onto the footpath and a raucous laughter emanated from the bogan.

    I got up and had a laugh myself at the whole absurdity.

  20. corvus boreus

    bobfafto,
    Funny story (except for the chronic back pain part).
    This avian has stopped flipping the bird.
    Repeated injuries to my middle digits suggested karma disapproved (though the fact that it is my longest, and thus most exposed and vulnerable finger may also factor).
    This has allowed me to shed a gesture that is not only vulgar and overutilised, but a relatively recent Americanism.
    I now deploy the two-finger salute, which has a rich and interesting history dating all the way back to 1415 (battle of Agincourt).

  21. bobrafto

    Now finally two pieces of advice:
    1. DON’T SMOKE!!!! Just do not smoke. If you smoke now, please do whatever it takes to give it away! It isn’t impossible, it just takes time.
    2. Do not take synthetic drugs! None, narda, nil, zip, zero. They will screw you up, and we do not want that. If you need drugs, see a bloody doctor, not your local dealer!! This dealer is using you to support his/her illegal lifestyle. That’s bullshit! Tell ’em to go screw up someone else’s life, you need all your brain cells for a comfortable future. There is no future in drugs……. Trust me… please, just trust me.

    I Know you are right, but I try and buy my fags with a picture of a pregnant woman on it saying smoking harms your baby, since I’m not a woman, I’m smoking more than ever.

    I think doctors have been doing really well giving out prescriptions for addictive Valium, I think the previous generation were hooked on these drugs and possibly our generation as well.

  22. bobrafto

    MMC
    Just to let you know that my daughters, 2 of them anyway, think I am an embarrassment, especially for an old fart to have long hair.

    I came to my mountain top perch 2.5 years ago with short hair and I wasn’t acclimatized to the higher altitude, when winter hit, I copped it in the neck that left me debilitated for nearly 8 months and from that I let my hair grow, however it’s greying, falling out and thinning, as one would expect and I’m playing with the idea whether to see how long it can grow before it all falls out.

  23. bobrafto

    ABC News

    22 hrs · Edited ·
    .

    Did you know our bodies have brown fat cells which actually burn up calories?
    The cells are activated by cold temperatures … but it will take more than stripping off in the snow to shed the kilos, we’re afraid.

    I was wondering I why I lost 9 kilos since I’ve been here, I’m lighter than in my 20’s, no love handles, I’m trim, taut and not so terrific.

  24. bobrafto

    Definitely my last comment.

    I know some of you peeps have time on your hands, and I would like to share with you a decadent chocolate torte recipe passed down from my mum who is now 95, living on her own and cooking for herself, Dad died a few years ago aged 95.

    It is easy to make unless you have arthritis in your wrist.

    But before I do, I would like to relate a birthday story, mine.

    As bdays go, it’s all ho hum and I get a few cheerio’s on FB, but last February, I made myself a chocolate torte and after dinner that night I was going to gorge myself on that torte, which is really not that hard to do, but straight after dinner there was a knock on the door and to my surprise it was the Ukranian 40 yr with four exes under her belt, from down the valley from me with a pressie.

    The same babe who tried to palm off her mother onto me a few months earlier, which I politely declined, as I didn’t want distractions by having someone else’s hand on it.

    Anyway, the pressie was small, gift wrapped, accompanied by a card and when I opened it my housemate’s eyes and mine popped out of our heads.

    Haven’t seen anything like it since the 70’s.

    For the next 2-3 hours, we had a threesome bday without the sex and we laughed and laughed while polishing off a fairly large chocolate torte.

    My housemate said it was the best bday party he’s been to and so it was for me too.

    Chocolate Torte
    ! 200gm dark chocolate, old gold or Coles brand for $2.50
    Savoridi sponge finger biscuits from Coles (20 bikkies in pk, 9 bikkies will make a large cake)
    2 cans of Carnation milk or the Aldi alternative a lot cheaper or substitute for milk, less decadent.
    3 tsps of Cocoa
    Whipped cream

    Put carnation milk in saucepan and heat without boiling, add cocoa and place fingers a few at a time in saucepan, when soaken remove from saucepan and place on a large plate or other cake plate.

    Allow to cool and then spread thickly the whipped cream over the fingers then with some effort grate the chocolate and spread all over the cream then put the torte in the fridge to set for at least 3-4 hours, the longer the better.

    Enjoy

  25. june Currie

    A beautifully written and perceptive speech.Thank you,Keith.

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