There’s a thing going on and it’s been going on for a few years now, that the seniors making up the ageing population growing old in London’s high and low-rise front rooms are victims in a digital self-centred urban environment. That thing is like a business. It is a business, a growing concern with a target consumer. Seniors are portrayed as static and ready to consume maybe, sometimes.
Seniors are shuffled into get-togethers where they’re coerced to keep-fit gently, shown how to eat healthily by chewing on massaged kale and unheard of nuts and to ward off dementia by sharing a memory lane in which Victor Sylvester conducts a bit of ballroom. And let’s not forget here the basic computer classes for those who will never return with the same password or even to the same hub. There’s a hint of judgement and solution all at the same time. There’s a prescription being dished out as a sure means of getting older people visible and not forgotten. It is assumed by the task masters and mistresses that seniors cannot possibly fathom out the ways of the twenty-first century and that a devised programme will solve everything from social isolation to cuddling with gusto every art installation just waiting to enhance the concrete walls of a pensioner’s gaff.
Stop it. These services via local government sponsored agencies describe and label a whole cohort of seniors in the age bucket from fifty to eighty eight years old as vulnerable and lonely and it’s understood that the lumping together includes the ethnicity as British and White. We can make assumptions judging by the ham based community dinners and the sausage roll buffets sitting on AGEUK application forms for heating assessments and basic computer use sessions that the white working class alone is being nurtured for social inclusion programmes whether in our vast population of over fifties, people actually describe themselves as Black Power Fans or Bob Marley’s Children, Pratibha’s Redbridge Scouts, Sid’s Lot, Marcella’s Churchie Crowd or Middle Class Mixed Race And Fallen, Vegan included. The promo literature kinda gives it away. Despite a gorgeous mix of older people in London for years, still the brochures have pictures like the telly insurance adverts of old ladies with white curly Twink perms or men pink-headed and nicely shaved thank you.
Things take time to change. I have been observing the slow crawl then for ten years, writing to magazines to change their pictures, suggesting to outfits that older people and I mean both sexes can learn something besides crochet. How about coding? It’s all because other people are prescribing treatments for the old. A huge conglomerate ready to please the government of the day trains its staff in their mantras and decides what they can offer the old with public funds from screwed tightly purses. Shocked will be the Coop today when seniors say what they really really want. A cup of tea is always a welcome and then a comfy armed chair to rest weary fifty year old bones. For ten years the same ole same ole has been dished up: basic computer use, healthy eating and gentle keep-fit. A change is gonna, has to come. I despair when a sixty something begs me to find them a computer class; They are the fodder for the government tick- the- box- we- did- well schemes. Once a Luddite, always a Luddite. You do not do we seniors proud.
At the Dalston pavement level going towards the Pie and Mash caff, things are different. Knowledge by seniors about seniors is different in the extreme. Last time I looked into my memory sink, sixty somethings were once jumping around in pub function rooms to punk rock or ignoring it and loving their classic cars. Seventy somethings were the birth pill generation who pushed against the establishment doors to enter fashion boutiques and indulge in the literature of metaphysics whilst hair- spraying their shoulder-length hair and practising moving their parts to imported reggae. They shacked up, baby-downed and shook off stereotypes on building sites. The eighty somethings whom now we salute for even getting there were the ration foodies who struggled to eat to survive. Massaged kale. Garlic bread.
I just feel that the machine keeps turning and that’s it. The intern dishing out leaflets in English about loft insulation has no face. She is temporary like all the six weeks only cos that’s how long the funding lasts shows. There is no community engagement as long as one side has superior notions about what’s best and the other is tuned out by stale, non-person engaging activities. No-one asks their name.
The computer and eating and armchair exercise programmes are in most community centres uninspiring and no-one really examines whether that wonderful notion of social engagement means the provider revisiting a place and certainly at least remembering someone’s name. The participant is not usually acknowledged in the short or long run. One white head looks like another. And yet “being invisible” is a conscience-spiking phrase. It is a term that just won’t go away yet because it’s a business model component. It’s also the shame of a nation in terms of how that nation describes its old (white people).