I’ve just been out with the dogs and along the way I noticed an elderly lady in front of me. She made me think about luck, health and loneliness. Her clothes were an outlandish mix of brightly patterned leggings, old lady sandals and astrakan coat. Just as I caught up with he,r she stopped a young woman and asked her if she would pull her shopping trolley up to the traffic lights at the junction. I paused a second and caught her eye, eyes with those drawn on eyebrows and bright red lips, but she ignored me. She probably wasn’t as old as I had thought, but she was razzled and had a cigarette dangling. The young woman talked to her so I carried on, wondering if she got the help she needed.
Around the next corner was my lovely old man, https://lucidgypsy.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/a-contrast-of-elderly-men/ chatting to a van driver. It’s been a couple of weeks since I saw him, so I was relieved and asked how he was. He assured me he was fine and turned to the van driver saying ‘Hers boodiful’, I laughed and tutted at him and carried on. My last encounter was with another really quite old lady, with her dog, who stopped to talk to Daisy and Dido. I’ve seen her before, but only exchanged Good mornings. Today she wanted to chat so we started with the weather. She had a walking stick and told me how she woke on Christmas day, in agony with her knee. She is having knee cap replacement surgery on Tuesday coming and was quite anxious. I tried to reassure her with stories of friends who had similar work done and said I’d see her in a couple of months good as new. Brave lady, I hope she makes a good recovery.
These lovely people make me so aware of how isolated the elderly can be, but I really enjoy talking to them and I know it makes such a huge difference to their lives. They may not have as many opportunities for chatting as I do – or as you do! If you come across people who may be glad of a smile and hello, I hope you will. We will all be old one day, if we’re lucky.
I’ve tried to speak to an elderly man who lives around the corner and walks to the local shop most days but he doesn’t make eye contact with me at all. I always smile hopefully. He leans heavily on his stick and is slow as if in pain. He must be well into his eighties and seems so miserable and alone. I wonder if he has anyone in his life. It’s not just me that he ignores – there is another man his age that he passes by without any acknowledgment.
Elderly man number two is a darling. He has a beaming open face with a warm smile and I also see him most mornings, in fact if I miss him for a few days I start to wonder. He also has a stick because he has very bad joints. He’s very happy to talk about his ailments, he has chest problems and recently has had eye surgery and has a very tenuous hold on his sight, but he just keeps smiling. And everyone smiles back. I walked along a little way with him today and he joked with me about being late for work because we were chatting, ‘they won’t pay you’ he said.
I don’t care if I’m a few minutes late, it’s a sad world if I can’t pass the time of day with him. I know his wife dies many years ago but he spends an afternoon with a lady friend sometimes; he twinkled when he told me! This morning he also spoke to a pretty school girl who smiled back and then headed into the shop. I know they love him in there; he hangs out with the dreadlocked shop guy putting the world to rights, getting his milk and bread. Despite his physical problems he still keeps moving, he walks to town – fifteen minutes for me – even if it takes a while, he doesn’t need to rush and I suspect he chats along the way.
So I wonder why elderly man number one is so different, he could just be more reserved, I hope it’s that and nothing worse. But I also hope that I’ll be like number two when I’m getting on a bit (if I’m spared), as we sow so we reap and I really want to keep on talking with anyone who will!
None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm, Thoreau.