The thrill of being old

    I love being old: every day is a new adventure. The first words I
    say when I wake up are “thank you”. I feel lucky I was born in the
    early 1920s. We were poor and my father left when my mother was
    diagnosed with disseminated sclerosis. I learned two things very
    early in my life: how to be a carer and the true meaning of “what
    you never had, you never miss”.

    During the Second World War I was a spotter on a gun site. My elder
    sister and two brothers were also in the forces. Uniforms were real
    levellers; we were all equal and I made some wonderful friends I
    still keep in touch with. We had no worries about leaving mum; we
    were able to give her an allowance from our pay. There was no
    shortage of carers either. Neighbours looked after anyone less
    fortunate than themselves.

    We demobbed in 1946 and I went to college. I took the civil service
    exam and began work at the National Assistance Board in Edinburgh
    until I realised I wanted to help people more practically. I asked
    for a transfer back home to Lancashire to be nearer my boyfriend
    Johnny.

    In 1950 we married and had two lovely daughters, four beautiful
    grandchildren and 43 happy years together. I returned to work when
    the children started infant school; first, dealing with domiciliary
    care for the chronically sick and disabled, and then, when the
    department was transferred to social services, I retrained in
    domiciliary care management.

    I have loved every minute of my working life. I love all kinds of
    people: sick, fit, rich, poor. Retiring at 65 and released from the
    restrictions of the local authority enabled me to see more clearly
    how people’s priorities had changed. The have-nots have very
    little.

    Shortly after my husband died I became involved in a government
    pilot scheme, Better Government for Older People, and travel around
    the country as a UK representative. When you are old you have the
    freedom to say what you feel is needed. There are so many lonely,
    excluded people. I am lucky I have my children and grandchildren
    around me.

    I am a member of five national service framework subgroups and
    chair of the local user/carer group. It’s good to realise there are
    so many young people ready and willing to help, given the chance.
    We must give them the benefit of our experience. Intergenerational
    work could help with the growing population of older people.

    I just love travelling on trains. I once stood up in the middle of
    a carriage and asked for answers to my crossword. The look on
    people’s faces was something I will never forget. The funny thing
    was I don’t do crosswords: I just wanted to see the reaction.
    Everybody gets old or dies. I’d rather be old.

    Florence Lyons is chair of a service user group.

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