The Summer of a Dormouse

Musings of an incurable pessimist. "When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation) - sleep, eating and swilling - buttoning and unbuttoning - how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse...(Lord Byron)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sans everything

I would like to devote this blog against disablism specifically to be against disablism when it affects the elderly.

I confess a special interest here. I am approaching the sell-by date for a woman (age 60) and I have noticed that there is a particularly pervasive disablist ageist attitude which is found, to their shame, even amongst disabled people themselves.

This is the attitude that "oh it's only wear-and-tear. It's your age. It's only to be expected. You are not disabled as a young man or woman or a child is disabled: the quality of your life is of less importance because you are old. So put up with the pain, or the impaired senses, or the restricted mobility, and shut up about it. Do not expect any adjustments, let alone reasonable ones. Do not expect public money and research effort to be wasted on easing the effects of geriatric impairments. And above all, do not insult me by confusing
me with an old person, just because I am in a wheelchair or use a stick or a white cane or a hearing aid." It is the assumption that this confusion is an insult that saddens me. What does it say about the person's unconscious attitude to the seniors in his own family?

There's one thing that is for certain in this life, and that is, that we are all going to grow older. Some of us may not grow old, but that's another story. And as we sow, so shall we reap. Every jibe about useless old crumblies, every bit of tut-tuttery about them blocking beds (because their home adaptions haven't been done) and pavements (because their mobility is dependent on chairs and scooters), will come back a thousandfold, when it's our turn, because what we are doing is nurturing resentment against the old now.

In your own self-interest, if nothing else, do not refuse to make common cause with the old. You have in common with them your humanity, and the disadvantages that disability attracts in this society. Don't let ageism cloud that perception.

And I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to an unlikely contributor to the cause of disabled people - the late Benny Hill. Benny Hill had two long-standing relationships with disabled women, whom he would visit and treat as well as he could:

"paying for a chauffeur-driven car to bring them down to London, taking in lunch at the Savoy and an afternoon matinee at the theatre, or the cinema if there was a new James Bond film."

Any rich man could do that, but,

"He would visit restaurants in advance to check wheelchair access and establish whether the ladies' toilet could be reached without stairs."┬╣

How many able-bodied people let alone young men, would even think about those details, preserving his guests' dignity?

┬╣Mark Lewisohn: Funny Peculiar: The true story of Benny Hill, London, 2002


Blogger The Goldfish said...

Benny Hill - now that's a name I didn't expect to come up today! :-)

Excellent post Dot. I always despair of the attitude that impairment and pain is an inevitable consequence of age and therefore somehow a non-issue.

Usually it's the physical things, but my maternal grandmother has at times quite severe mental ill health. She experiences paranoia and imagines things which haven't happened (although not in such a way consistant with dementia).

However, nobody will treat her as a serious case of depression. The doctors just treat her like a batty old woman. The effects on the family have been pretty devastating, apart from the fact that she is condemned to live out the last years of her life in this unhappy state, completely terrified of whatever comes next.

10:52 am  
Blogger BEG said...

This was a very interesting post. When I was younger (I'm not quite at that sell-by date, but I'm no spring chicken anymore), I used to bully the older members of my family into getting hearing aids when they needed them. They'd groan about how it made them "look old", and I'd sit there and point out that *I* had *two* and *I* wanted to talk to them, so they *better* get hearing aids, and then we could share.

My mum still laughs about that pep talk I gave to my great (great) aunt when I was all of seven years old.

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As with so many of the posts on this brilliantly-conceived blogging day, this was so thought-provoking.

I'm 19 and having mobility problems, and since my Mum's diagnosed Parkinson's a few years ago, so is she. (We're thinking about having races in our wheelchairs, but that's by the by.) It has made me rethink my attitude towards other people and how I used to see - usually older - people struggling to walk or in scooters and never really considered it before.

Not sure I'm really making a point, here, but - thank you for making me think.

12:56 am  
Blogger dotandcarryone said...

Thank you all for replying to the blog, and congratulations, Goldfish, on a brilliant idea.

12:47 pm  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

This is an interesting slant to the problem, Dot. It made me think about my own attitudes a bit. Thanks for bringing it out into the open.

1:03 pm  

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