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22 July 2019
Ageing in my Community

16th July 2019

So today finally after intentions of doing this a long time ago I finally opened my Spanglefish account and started to explore it.  I have downloaded some photos which I plan to use and am wondering if my approach to this is the same as approaching creating my poster.  It feels a bit the same.  The clutter in my life seems to be disappearing and I’m feeling more able to focus so I hope that I will be able to sustain this journal.


At our group Skype on 9/7/19 I discussed the atmosphere and events which are occurring frequently in my life and how these are affecting me and what I am seeing. I describe them in the following chapters:




I attended the Drs surgery early on a Monday morning to arrange an appointment and when going through reception noted a stand for a Palliative Care agency who are launching a new lottery ticket to raise a regular income to sustain a reliable service. As I went in the nurse promoting the service was talking to an elderly woman who walked away whilst shouting at her ‘I wish someone would do something to help me.  I need help but have to get on with it!’. 

On my way out I stopped to speak to the nurse and discussed the excellent care my sister had received from her service and that I had given a sizeable donation to reflect that.  She replied that such donations were great but in order to survive the service needed regular income and encouraged me to sign up for a lottery card.  I explained that there are so many agencies in similar situations asking for money that I could not help them all but would make donations from time to time.

I commented on what I had heard earlier and at that point she burst into tears and said it had been a dreadful morning with people being rude and abusive.  She was obviously a caring and competent women, very dedicated to her work and so frustrated at the challenges facing her service.  I tried to stay and encourage her but she was embarrassed at her emotional outburst and said she was fine.

When I left I felt very sad and concerned about the future and the lack of infrastructure for those in the caring professions and worried for those who may need their services in the future.


Via the U3A I attend a monthly book club in Minehead where I am the youngest attendee.  All the others range from being in their early to mid 70s through to our oldest member who is 87 and a half. All our members have been extremely charming and I have enjoyed their company. (As a youngest in my family I am used to this).

Each July we have a tea party in the conveners garden following our book meeting.  Our convener provides the Pimms and we all bring food to share.  This was my first opportunity to attend as it way for another new member who is finding it hard to settle into the group.

Gilly our eldest member had chosen the book ‘The Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen 83 ¼ years old’, owriter not known.  The book covered one year in Hendrick’s life in an Amsterdam residential home for the elderly and his experiences, friends, challenges and loves and is a gently humourous and sad tale.

Gilly was quick to explain that the different between 83 ¼ and 87 ½ was much more than she would have expected and talked about how events in the book resonated for her.  The description of the majority of the people in the care home and their institutionalised behaviours (this included staff and residents) and Hendricks’ determination not to let this happen to him and how he and a few others form the ‘Old but not yet dead’ club where they arrange surprise outings for each other one Friday a month and the purpose, joy and independence it brings them.  This is met with jealousy by many of the other residents who want to be included but are not prepared to put in any effort.

One of the main factors arose was the constant changes made by the residential home which ranged from limiting even further the amount of personal items individuals could bring into the home, the number of biscuits with tea and many other petty incursions which mainly resulted in childlike behaviour from the residents.

More ominous were the financial constraints and the raising of costs at the home, the loss of free bus passes and the boundary between the residential area of the home and the ‘care’ aspect of the home which was viewed with fear and trepidation.  It became very clear that all of the group were fearful of what the future held for them.  They all knew that current legislation gives them very limited choices or control over their own future and this distressed and angered them. These were all professional women; Teachers, Nurses, they had travelled the world, many living in the British colonies at various stages of their lives, yet voiced that now they have no say in what happens to them.

A few also addressed the fact that their various residential homes are owned by millionaire investors who live on their yachts abroad and do not pay tax into the British system.  The homes they provide are only for those who are capable of independent living and when these residents move to the next stage they have to leave and go into care.  All but two of us in the group are widows who cared for their husbands in their ill health and now face being alone.  The group does provide a support network and many of them go on outings together, meet for coffee and give particular care of each others ‘special days’ e.g. birthdays, anniversaries of loss etc. 

In our current UK climate of protests and marches, verbal aggression and animosity, misinformation and media reporting being questionable, these ladies whilst angry are not shouting from the rooftops or demanding attention, they are more resigned to being powerless and left behind by a world of social media they cannot access or event understand.


The road where I live has a mixture of housing and ages.  On my side of the road are family size houses, some with children, some without and on the opposite side are bungalows privately owned by elderly residents. 

The lady who lives opposite me knows all about me and my comings and goings and anything else that happens in the street.  Having recently undergone a hip replacement operation she has been less mobile and needed some support and we have been involved in taking her for hospital appointments and various errands.  Just keeping an eye on her.

Next door to her lives a couple where the elderly gentleman of 90 is blind and bed ridden.  His wife used to live on our side of the road where her family grew up and she cared for her husband until he died.  She then started to care for her current husband and 3 years ago he married her to ensure that she would be financially safe should and when anything happen to him.  This caused great tribulation in his family who have refused to visit or help in any way since.

His wife who is in her late 80s had not been able to access any help at all and finally had a fall and broke her pelvis and had to be hospitalised and her husband had to go into care. There was however a gap between her returning home at the same time as him and any care being put into place so she was left walking on crutches looking after him. She ended up back in hospital but they could not find a place for him to go as the care home he had been in before had closed.  So he was left alone with carers coming in 3 times a day for ½ an hour during which time they had to wash him, give him food, sort out his commode etc.

They got through a really difficult time and in early June she took her first walk into the village to do some shopping and stopped to chat with me and Joan.  She was delighted to be out but had bought quite a lot of shopping and I offered to help her into the house but she refused saying she could manage.  I was watching to see her go in and she left her walker outside and went in alone.  A few minutes later she came out of the door and attempted to pull her walker inside.  I ran but was not in time to stop her falling backwards and found her on her back.  She wanted me to pull her up but I said no that it was not a good idea to move her and I would call the emergency services and an ambulance was dispatched.

In the meantime my other neighbour came over and was concerned to see her on the floor and would not listen to me saying that we could not leave her lying on the floor.  She called a man in from the street and asked him to lift her up and despite my protests that was done.  She was anxious about her husband so could at least be sat with him.

I waited with them until the ambulance came and family arrived.  The paramedics checked her over and found no breakages and thought she was just shaken.  I relayed that her initial reaction was ‘my back, my back’ but nothing was found.

The following day I found she had rung her son in the night as the pain had been so bad and he took her to A & E where she was found to have a broken back!  Her husband was left alone again for a few days until care could be organised and more recently a live in carer has moved in as they are now both bed bound.

There are so many people in need it is hard to know where and how to help without being consumed by their need.


I am a member of the U3A in Minehead which is one of the largest groups in the country.  They have a new chairman who is investigating how to provide more accessible meetings in the community and they have chosen Williton where I live to investigate this.  We have a new pavilion in Williton so there are good amenities and a large part of the Minehead membership live close by.

I am engaged with a few others to get this local group off the ground and are aiming at a more social aspect as much of the U3A has a very strong focus on learning, so this is very much a new venture.  In order for local people to access the meetings they do need to be members.  Our first venture is a D Day themed coffee morning where they Ukelele group will play and engage attendees in a sing a long, a Canadian member will read a letter and poem by a relative of his who was one of the first ashore on the D Day landings.

A couple of local elderly ladies who I know had been feeling rather down as their lack of mobility was preventing them from continuing with their current activities and I mentioned the U3A and offered to take them to a coffee morning in Minehead where they could join and ask about the groups available so I took them and my husband Mick who I have also encouraged to join along on 18th July.  I was able to drop them off at the venue so they didn’t have far to walk and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves and have chosen to become members.

Ideally they are looking for a bridge group but it might be necessary to start a new one, the other thing they were interested in was horse racing!!

Apparently the U3A have been approached by the Government to assist in providing services for the isolated and lonely and this may mean a shift in their focus from being purely educational and research driven to be include a more social element.

As part of this new group in Williton some new book clubs are being set up and I wanted to set something up with an Adlerian flavour at the same time as being appealing to all and have put forward the suggestion of a Conversation Café around the theme of Community and Social Interest. The aim to be that of identifying what this means to local people, what they want and how that vision can be used.  I’m still thinking about this.  There are no meetings in August so I will be putting something into the September newsletter and see what kind of response I receive.




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