Older People – Full of Opinions:
For UK Older People’ Day 2014, as well as the theme of ‘Full of Life’, each month has been designated with a particular theme. For March, the theme is ‘Full of Opinions’.
We often forget that the people we see in our centres and homes who look frail or appear to have some disability, were part of a generation that has seen the fastest changes in life of any generation. They may be monumental societal changes – living through one (or even two) World Wars, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of South African apartheid. It may have been societal changes that have altered personal lives – the growth of women’s equality, the acceptance of same sex relationships, travel that crosses the boundaries of countries and continents.
None of these changes would have happened without the involvement of individuals in debating, lobbying and campaigning. Whilst young people today are being viewed as Generation C (Citizen – Demos report) the generation with a social conscience, we often forget that others have paved the way before them.
How much do we ask those older people we meet about their campaigns and passions, how often do we ask them about the role they have played in changing lives for themselves and others?
Let me just share the story of Ann – brought up in the East End, married to a dentist, and to look at, your typical older Jewish lady who shops, cooks, gets her hair and nails done weekly. But when I see Ann I remember her involvement in the campaign for Soviet Jewry, demonstrating with other women of her generation for the basic human rights we take for granted that were refused to former USSR citizens who wanted to express their Jewish identity. I remember too how proud and excited she was when her and her co-protesters chained themselves to the railings of 10 Downing Street. I can still see her getting ready for the event, making sure her hair was just so and her make-up prepared for the camera.
Each of us has a passion, and each of us has a story, the trick is to ask people about their passions and the stories that demonstrate that passion. That way we will remember each individual rather than lump them all together by age or disability.
For the month of March, our challenge is to find the time and activity that will unlock those stories.
Sonia Douek is Head of volunteering and community development at Jewish Care and has developed a strategy for the organisation that has seen the growth of volunteers in the organisation reach 3,000 people.