This is something I’ve been pondering a lot over the past year or two. As those of us whose political activism started in the 60s and has carried on until now, us older rebels are beginning to realise there’s little available where we can still ponder and have a good stimulating conversation with others the same age who still fancy overthrowing the state and fucking up capitalism. Physical ailments, frailties, mobility issues prevent us from getting out there on the livelier protests – apart from that we’d be in the way and be an ideal target for cops when the younger more agile comrades have managed to leg it. Then of course there’s the transport – my own main station into London is Norwood Junction: a very busy station that has no access for anyone in a wheelchair. Bollox innit.
So what do we do? I’m talking from experience – I’m in my 70s and full time carer for partner Ian who has advanced Parkinsons. I’ve been looking round Croydon at various day centres for Ian. I thought it might be an option for an occasional break for him, and a break from caring 24/7 for me. Plus these centres have on duty nursing care available should assistance be required with any of the undignified personal bodily functions that come with getting older. But the options are shit: the majority of the places offering day centre places are for dementia sufferers and those that aren’t seem to get treated like they got it anyway. The staff speak to the old ‘uns like we’re 5 years old, in these pitying little voices. “How are you today Poppet” “ooh don’t you look pretty today” etc. Crap below mediocre “entertainers” with Michael Fabricant wigs come to try to jolly everyone along with shit sexist jokes, a stupid puppet and singing along to songs that were popular two decades before these people were even born. There’s also such an assumption that because we’re old we’ve lost any interest in what’s going on, apart from of course assuming we’re all royalists and stick us in chairs with those crocheted square blankets and a little Union Jack flag to wave at the TV at any monarchist event. Cos old people love the Royals don’t they.
Something needs to be put in place for us current and future old rebels and I’m wondering how this would work in the UK. There’s this whole lot of us ageing anarchos with nowhere to fit in. Catching up soon will be the anarcho punks from the 1970s who will have as much luck settling into the present older care system as a fox at a hunt ball. And then everyone else following decade by decade.
My current thoughts are that there could be “Hubs” around led by people with sound politics and able to co-ordinate the personal care/mobility issues, arrange transport etc. Groups where discussions on political issues can take place, maybe films, a bit of reminiscence sharing about our best riots/ protests etc. And of course visits to the pub. Maybe even form groups where we go on the offensive with a “don’t mess with us you patronising wankers” message.
Present day care homes are also a major worry. When you’re too frail, unwell, or disabled to live independently, what is the option? Currently care homes have the same patronising attitude to older people as day centres but ten times worse as you’re stuck there 24/7. “Time for your bed/shower/now dear. The Mayor is coming to visit tomorrow and we want to look our best for him don’t we”. Well actually, no we fucking don’t.
There are a few ageing anarchists who have just given up trying to engage politically and have just chosen to isolate at home and withdraw, feeling like they’re “no use” any more and their views are worthless to the younger lot. Not in a self pitying way, but there is a tendency amongst some junior anarchists that we older lot don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about cos we’re not out there breaking into squats or living the perfect vision of an activist lifestyle, but mainly cos we’re old.
Other cultures and other countries have a much more integrated generational mix, where older people aren’t cast aside as useless old nuisances who know fuck all but are respected as elders.
Something’s got to change, but it’s got to come from us and not the ageist ideas borne from capitalism, and I think the younger anarchists need to start building on this if we can ever achieve a society based on mutual aid and looking out for our own. After all, one day they’ll be old too and unless things change they won’t be happy with what’s on offer.
Image: Rick The Draft Dodger