Rule the World

It's time to begin my manifesto.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

No. 008: Old People

When I rule the world: old people will be treated better.

Old people get a bit of a rough deal. Mind you, they bring some of it on themselves. Kidding! I am the first to admit that old people can have sometimes have frustrating habits, but I don't think that excuses the way a lot of them live in poverty, existing on a miserable pension, with nobody to visit them from one year to the next.

Most old people have interesting stories to tell - stories which could help the younger generation. The difficulty lies in convincing the old person in your life that stories about their wartime adventures are more interesting than a three-hour story about how their cabbages are coming along. It seems like old people forget what they used to find interesting when they were young. I don't think, for example, that my 90-year-old Nanna spent her youth discussing the wind for which her city is famous keeps people healthy because it blows all the germs away, but whenever I see her she never fails to tell me all about it. She usually follows it up with a tale of limited adventure involving a trip to the opera and her great-granddaughter, who was apparently precocious enough to find her own way to the bathroom during the intermission. And she's a sprightly and highly alert example of the grandmother group, so I shudder to think what more aged specimens are inflicting on their hapless families.

There may be nothing wrong with innocent stories like these on the first telling, but when you start feeling your grandmother is set on a continuous repeat loop and only has ten things to say it can become difficult to convince yourself to visit her. Added disincentives will usually involve questionable cookery and a slightly blase approach to kitchen hygiene.

But you should persevere! Grit your teeth and look beyond the smeared teacup. Better still, ask for some alcohol - grandmothers like mine have a heavy hand with the vodka bottle. Even the most mundane story of octogenarian adventure can take on a new shine after a couple of stiff drinks.

My Nanna has great stories, if you can get her focused to tell them. She's lived in the same city for over 75 years. She's lived in a time where the way society views women has changed beyond all measure. When she was newly married her father would visit once a week to scrub her kitchen floor for her, but also once told her she was a disgrace because she walked around in public with a pregnant stomach on show (not naked, obviously. Nanna was never that much of a raver). She was thought daring as a teenager because she chose to walk down the street where the Chinese people of the city lived, even thought her mother had issued dire threats about the fate of people who strayed down there.

My grandfather also had great stories, but he had little chance of getting a word in when my grandmother was on the scene, and now, sadly, he's dead. It's advisable to spend time with grandparents separately if you want to get any sense out of them, as people who have been married for more than ten years seem to form a strange double-act, where they both make noise without saying much.

I will increase pensions across the board, so old people don't have to worry about where their next packet of biscuits is coming from. This should help break their habit of, for example, buying bad birthday presents from charity shops.

And we'll have special training at school to develop our 'listening to old people' skills. It's tricky sometimes to gently direct conversation away from the girl with the funny hair on the bus, and back to the topic of interest, be it family history or whatever. And perhaps I'll bring in some kind of red card system, so when an old person tells you about their cat for the forty-seventh time that day you can just give them a quick visual reminder not to bore you with the same story.

Everybody over the age of 65 will automatically get a free cleaner, neatly solving the kitchen hygiene issues and prompting younger members of the family to visit more often. Those who require it may also get a cook. My Nanna will be on this list.

And old people who still feel social - like my Nanna - will be offered part-time jobs as bartenders. We'll all party like there's no tomorrow if my Nanna's pouring the drinks.


At 9:46 pm, Blogger Vickie said...

Ha! I'm laughing so much at the image of Nanna as a bartender!


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