What if we called it Elder Care?

Sunday Blog 137 – 26th May 2024

After a couple of false starts, I find the right café to have breakfast before I visit Mum. It’s a charming old-style café in Guildford, and unusually I am the only woman. Perhaps it’s the early hour. I set up the laptop and order breakfast, toggling my need for writing with my hunger. I have to keep shoving around the elements—coffee, laptop, breakfast, but eventually I can re-focus my attention on the writing.

Two men are in almost identical polo shirts and appear to be having a business meeting. They move off and another pair with almost identical polos soon arrives. I have to look carefully to make sure they’re not the same people.

An odd male couple, friends, sit in another corner, one dressed casually in jeans and striped polo shirt, the other in a sharp suit, clean cut and shaved. Clearly, they’re regulars—more regular than the owners who have recently bought the café. The odd couple talk loudly, especially the one in the sharp suit, but I’ve tuned them out. I like a noisy café to write.

Next to me, I’m joined by another man on his laptop. Perhaps he knows the odd couple. He comments on their increasingly loud discussion on whose turn it is to pay. A male pantomime reminiscent of Father Ted is emerging (google Mrs Doyle, I’ll pay) They appeal to the new owner, who confirms that last week, the polo shirted man paid. It’s sharp suit’s turn today. They laugh about how old they’re getting and how hard it is to remember whose turn it is at their age (late 50s, early 60s I’m guessing.)

“One day, we won’t even remember who each other is!” sharp suit wisecracks. There is a bravado of guffawing.

Right in mid-air, a vivid recent memory re-plays in my mind. I see my mother’s hand stroking Roma’s face at the dinner table at the residential aged care facility they both now live at. Roma, the doctor, a woman medical graduate in the 1950s. Thumbing her nose at the deeply sexist times. Roma the inveterate traveller. She doesn’t know my mother, or their friendship of seven decades. She doesn’t even know Roma any more.

The men in the café laugh and laugh with the brutal, untrue certainty that this will never happen to them. They are above ageing, above dementia, above death.

But they’re not, are they? None of us is. We don’t know which one of us will be wheeled into the dayroom to sit in front of a jigsaw puzzle. I see Roma picking at the jigsaw pieces some days. Her hands which once ran over surgical instruments with a practiced touch. She turns the jigsaw pieces this way and that, puzzling at what they are.

It got me to wondering. Why do we call it “aged care?” But imagine if we called it “elder care?” If we saw through to Roma the doctor, and through even further to ourselves? Because it’s all ourselves.

We call it elder abuse. Why can’t we collectively imagine elder care?

Join the Conversation


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *