One of the joys of being on holiday is day time television. There are some terrible things on the box whilst most of you are at work, but I have discovered one programme this week which has been genuinely entertaining and informative.
It’s called The Young Ones and was shown on BBC1 in the afternoons. They took six former celebrities – actors, actresses, journalists, television hosts and sporting people – who are in their 70s or 80s and transported them back to their heyday in 1975. They had transformed a house (with the most garish furnishing you’ve ever seen) to look like it would have in the seventies and engaged them in activities which replicated their careers at the time. The aim of the experiment was to investigate whether living like they were 40-odd again could make them feel 40-odd again and actually impact their physical and mental well being.
Maybe it sounds dreadfully dull to you but it was fascinating to watch. It’s doubtful that it was the 70s decor which inspired their improvement and far more likely it was the company and opportunity to be independent once more. With grandparents who are relatively active for their ages, I’ve never appreciated the difference social interaction and determination to do things for yourself can make. I guess I’ve always just assumed it was pure stubbornness but actually, when my grandparents argue to be allowed to drive or to carry things or are buying the latest gadget, they’re fighting for independence and that’s really important. We just assume that once you get past a certain age, you’re no longer able to do things and we begin to treat you like children again. But returning these people to their prime reminded them of their capabilities and released them to do more for themselves, and others, again.
My granny is here for Christmas – she’s almost 80 (don’t tell her I told you) – and fiercely independent. She still lives by herself, looks after the house without any assistance, goes dancing twice a week, and is always off on coach holidays with friends. My papa is in his late seventies, still driving, looking after my nana, looking after the rest of the family, organising the folks in his building, visiting old golfing buddies and he’s the one who buys the ridiculous gadgets (the fridge in the car being my particular favourite). I went to visit my friends the other day: they’ve been married sixty years and he is 86 years old now! They too are independent, still gardening, out for lots of day trips and inspiring and caring for lots of the younger church members. All these people have social circles which support and engage them as equals and it seems to me that that is crucial. I hope I’m half as sprightly as any of them when I’m that age!!
The experiment was an immense success with all the participant’s flexibility, stability, stamina and mental agility improving. It was really heart warming to watch as they achieved even small goals such as putting on socks without assistance, walking without a stick, painting a picture or taking the dog for a walk.
So, when you go to visit your elderly relatives this holiday season, don’t baby them and give them a little more credit!