The Old Woman
She stares out of the window watching no one go by. She has stared at the same spot in the middle of the street for over two hours in the hope that someone will walk by and remind her that she is not the only person living in her solitary world. Loneliness has become her best friend. Time means nothing in an existence that ticks slowly by, and as the minutes drag into hours she wishes she could hurry up and die.
She sees a movement and she edges closer to the window. It’s a neighbour and she has known him since he was a little boy. She waves to him, her eyes lighting, but he pretends not to see her, after all he’s on his way to work and is far too busy even to acknowledge her and he hurries on passed, head bowed.
She stands there a little longer. Her legs are beginning to ache but she can’t face sitting in the chair so soon in the day and watching the same TV programmes she watched yesterday. She sees a white Volvo pull up almost at her front door and a young woman with two small children clamber out. They are off to see their grandmother, the lady who lives across the road and she can tell they are all pretending not to see the loony old woman who lives at number 24; the woman who is always at the window staring at them whenever they call. They rush away and don’t look back and the old woman’s eyes glisten with unshed tears. Depression is wrapping itself around her like a dark heavy shroud and sadness is eating away at what’s left of her broken heart. All she longs for is another’s company, a little kindness, but no one has time for her, not even her own family.
When the pain in her legs becomes too much to bear she turns away from the window and goes and sits in her favourite chair. She reaches for the remote and switches on the TV. She hears the drone of voices, the belief that there really is life on earth and then she allows the tears to fall and openly sobs, wishing once again that she was dead and away from this misery called life.
I really hope this piece of writing fills you with empathy for this old lady and the thousands of elder people just like her. This is not a made up scenario indeed there is probably someone living like this only a few streets away from where you live and you may or may not even be aware of it. 10.3 million people in the UK are 65 and over and this is set to rise to over 14.4 million by 2033.
Believe it or not, the older generation should not be hidden away and forgotten about because they still have plenty to offer. They can be enthralling, have a devilish sense of humour and most definitely have the most amazing life stories to share with you. Okay so they can no longer do back flips or run the four minute mile, (like to see you try!) but they are not totally washed up either.
You may find that if they lived either before or during the war then they have lived or seen immense suffering that did not fill them with doom and gloom, in fact far from it. These wonderful people are true survivors and can fill you with inspiration and help sculpt new ideas when you learn about things that happened in a very different era. Tales that will make your toes curl and your eyes round with surprise and I can almost visualise you all shaking your heads in disbelief when you hear these amazing stories and to think you could learn all this in return for a cup of tea and little of your time.
Over the past few years I have met some truly astounding and charming characters. Elderly people who have become my friends and who I visit on a regular basis. I see their faces light up when they spot me walking down their path and that’s a wonderful feeling. Come on, admit it, how often does that ever happen to you? We natter away about nothing in particular, but these people are always interested in what I have to say or what I’m about to do next.They can be seen chomping on the bit to hear about a new book I’m concocting or how my own family is doing.
Do you know that when I was working on the hospital ward and as a Carer in the community I met a lady who once worked with Mother Teresa and a gentleman who was a war hero and had books written about him. Please, don’t be fooled by old age! These people have truly lived! They may even have lived two of your lifetimes and therefore their knowledge of life is vast and inspirational.
Why don’t you do something positive today and pop along to see if that old lady you know who just lost her husband needs a helping hand or the old bloke on your street who lost his wife years ago needs any groceries from the shop because after all you’re already going there. If you’re unsure whether to approach them then why not contact you local Age Concern (Age UK) and see if they can advise you. If this is not for you but you would still like to contribute your time then why not become a volunteer? Charities always need an extra pair of hands or you could perhaps contact your local day centre and offer your services? Do something amazing today and change someone’s life because one day that old person standing at the window might just be you …
Food for thought? … I hope so!
Age UK Link:
(Age UK is also working with Gransnet to create some great opportunities for older people to meet online, exchange knowledge, experience and swap stories)