Yesterday I happened to pull into a parking bay alongside a minibus that had brought half a dozen or so elderly people from a charitable care home to a beachside area to enjoy a few hours out in the sunshine and sea air.
The party seemed to be led by a kindly middle-aged carer who, from her demeanour, was doing her job in return for a salary rather than completely out of kindness but, in all fairness, she was doing a great job.
Even more striking was the demeanour of the minibus driver: a crew-cut, dangerously overweight individual with a substantial beer paunch and wearing ill-fitting shorts. His demeanour conveyed a strong message that he was only there because he was being paid to drive the minibus. Driving was his job description and, very clearly, that was all he was prepared to do.
It was with a distinctly bored and distant stare that he watched his passengers reboard the minibus. He showed no empathy towards them and there was no way that he was prepared to help these less agile people back into his minibus. Apart from the driving, he left the care of his charges entirely to the carer who did her best, and served coffee and cake on what was a beautifully sunny but cool morning.
I should now declare my interest: I have a birthday coming up that may sound challenging in terms of numbers but I am, in fact, in pretty good shape and generally able to take good care of myself. What I have to remember, however, is that I am very fortunate and, like so many of us, I am one silly little mistake away from a fall and whatever horrors that may bring.
The minibus driver, although younger than me, is not looking after himself at all and may even be closer to medical disaster than I am. He too will one day be old and both expect and require the sort of care that he should have been making available to his party.
How much better this trip to the beach would have been if the driver had not regarded his party as decrepit, useless, and worthy only of scorn. Surely each and every one of them was worthy of dignity and respect – as I hope I will be viewed when and if my turn comes to take part in such an outing.
Aged care is an increasingly big topic, of course, but the growth in numbers of the population that, to some degree or another, requires it or may do so, surely means that we must all contribute towards its increasing knowledge and success. New ideas generated by experts abound but a change of mindset in the general population is something to which we can all contribute so easily.
These days, our chances of reaching a ripe old age are ever better. When we reach that point will the younger generations look down on us as an inconvenience and a nuisance to be ignored if at all possible or will they, as a result of generational change through education, help us to enjoy those days?