By Debbie le Quesne

When I Get Older . . . a triumph for the Beeb

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Last night the BBC left me an emotional wreck as I watched ‘When I Get Older’ with presenter Gloria Hunniford, veteran newsman John Simpson, actress Lesley Joseph and Tony Robinson.

It was a powerful insight into the lives of four very different pensioners but it was the story about Ivy which touched me most – a woman whose housing benefit did not cover her rent.

Her disposable income was just £3 a day and she juggled the pennies, scrutinising whether to spend on toilet rolls, toothpaste or food. How as a society have we let this happen? How did she let it happen?

Some cultures honour their elderly, We seem to forget them. The programme was not a knock at the care system, but a genuine cameo of how life could be when we get old.

Simple things like an egg for breakfast were off the menu because “egg and chips make dinner.” It appeared another world from the one most of us understand.

She was broken by circumstance, worn down and had not bothered to seek help. It was a clear reminder to me why I embrace so enthusiastically my work in the care sector. Ivy had health problems and it wasn’t clear to me whether she’d just given up trying to find help, or had just never asked, either way she had ‘slipped through the net’.

It was horrible to hear how she tried to shield her children from how bad things were, but so many parents do just that.

The sense of hopelessness and despair was tangible and she simply could not believe help was out there. I found myself saying out loud: “No, no, no.” Our attitude to ageing, if this programme is representative of the elderly at home, needs to be overhauled.

John Simpson’s encounter with house bound, cantankerous widow, Peggy, was also interesting. Fixated with watching wrestling, she chose to live an isolated life, with television her only real contact with the outside world. It was clear she’d never change, living on a diet of frozen meals and tinned food.

How do we change people like Peggy. Perhaps we can’t.

Lesley Joseph’s four-days focused on the change in relationship between a man and woman when one becomes carer to the other. Malcolm and Pat in just a few moments revealed issues of guilt and fear that must exist in many domestic care situations.

She spoke of how her relationship with Malcolm had changed. How it had developed into looking after a dependent “who needs you more than you need them”, how she really had no life of her own and had suffered a breakdown, how guilt would haunt her if he was put into a residential home and how even if she could have her life back, she’d have “nothing”.

It set me thinking of my mother’s journey caring for my dad and the price she paid.

As for stroke victim Malcolm – he was terrified should anything happen to Pat because she effectively was his life.

Tony Robinson was filmed with a widower unable to move on from his wife of 68 years. How sad.

It was all grueling, hard-to-watch stuff.

No doubt the TV critics will slate the programme format – it’s old hat – but I guess not one of them will have ever experienced first-hand the issues the BBC addressed.

For this alone, it was worth paying my TV licence this year.

Note: It’s an inescapable fact that everyone grows old. The over 65s are the fastest growing age group in Britain and by 2030 it’s estimated that a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65.


Written by debbielq

July 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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