This getting old malarkey is hard. Up Your Street is ten years old now. Many of the original seniors at Up Your Street are no longer out and about or joining in group activities. They are no longer interested in volunteering or going along anymore to workshops about collages or memories because what’s on offer saturates their brains: One hub does an art workshop; all the others follow. They have been talked to for years in a most patronising way and have known for ages that their presence as representing seniors in the community at the meeting places does not make them more visible. They are never re-engaged. Their turning up gives relief to the organisers who in turn satisfy the funders. The community has then been served and the Big Society goes from strength to strength.
Arthritis prevents these ageing seniors from museum trawling and tea-dancing.
People get older and in the main, tired. No longer is a one hour activity increased to three hours because of travel become part of the day. That one experience is a day out. Sapped energy prevents a mooch around the shops and spending nearly three pounds on a coffee is not an option. Home in those four walls with TV for company is not so bad and who is anyone to judge?
People’s dietary habits change. Diabetes takes away the joy of a cuppa and cake at a local hub. Vegetarians and gluten-free followers club in with vegans so social outings to local cafés turn into sessions where participants quiz each other with suspicion about their choice of food and that pulls people apart. Differences are highlighted rather than the nicer light of bringing people closer to each other in conversation. The cafés catering for all dietary needs are expensive and probably for the young. It’s difficult to chose a venue.
Those missed Up Your Streeters who ten years ago subscribed to receiving emails about activities and events no longer use email. They in the main never use a mobile phone and have not expanded their use of digital technology or changed their negative opinions about social media. It is obvious that in another era a young intern helped them to set up an email account and that was that. Added to that many seniors pick up emails once in a blue moon and then at a public place such as a community centre.
Unwittingly by moving away from Up Your Street those original subscribers have isolated themselves from the wider community. Up Your Street is less exciting without them.
Of course just like playground habits, people move away from others they just don’t like. Experience has taught me to be aware of who shares an event with whom if everyone is to have a positive lasting experience.
People are very good at keeping inside their comfort zone. They dipped into the weird and wonderful but came back to what they knew for fifty years. I know from over the years who prefers poetry to plasticene installations, tea dances to classical concerts.
And I cannot forget to mention about how seniors become grandparents so go off the social scene for a worthwhile while. Child minding is exhausting.
Those who cannot access Up Your Street activities and became older and less fit will not return. They will cease to use their Freedom Passes. They are over seventy and entering another chapter in their lives. What fun they had though. Some went to “You Me Bum Bum Train”, unwanted and invisible by the way; some became market researchers during London 2012 and some navigated locks in Little Venice. So much they did.
Naively, I thought they were hibernating. Not so.
I include them by using emails still until they tell me not to or occasionally landline them and even post details to them because never say never.