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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A scenario of Ageism

Produced: The only sound[1] A Scenario

It is half past eleven in an old people’s home.  The morning drinks have been taken and the cups collected.  In a small lounge with fire doors at each end, ten old ladies are sitting quietly along two walls.  Some are staring ahead of them and some appear to be dozing.  Through one of the fire doors comes a member of the staff caring a small suitcase.  Behind her is a thin old man holding his hat in front of him with both hands.  In the room she turns, asks him to sit in the vacant chair, places a suitcase in front of him and then goes out the other door.  The old man is dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt, dark tie, and polished black shoes.  The suit is cut in very old style and has been carefully pressed which makes him look as so he is on his way to a Sunday service or a funeral.  He holds the hat very tightly in his lap and his hands are shaking.  Some of the old ladies glance at him then look away.  After several minutes of silence another staff member comes in carrying a piece of paper and a pen, reads an address to him, and asks if that is the correct address of his next of kin.  He clears his throat and says it is. After she is gone he sits forward stiffly in the chair, gazing at the floor in front of his suitcase.  Ten minutes elapse.  The first member of the staff returns with a cup of tea and asks him if he would like sugar.  He shakes his head.  She hands him the cup of tea and then departs again.  And as he sits holding his hat, and the cup, the shaking of his hand makes the cup rattle loudly.  It is the only sound.  He sips quickly at the ten.  Before, he can finish; the staff member returns again, says that his room is ready, picks up his suitcase and goes through the door holding it open for him.  He rises quickly to his feet, holding his hat and half finished cup of tea and looks around.  There are no tables in the room and he balances the cup on the window ledge behind the seat, before hurrying out of the room.  The old ladies who have looked up at his departure return their gaze to the wall and floor.  Now can you see the imbalance of power in the relationship between provider and recipient in an institutional setting and to the experience of being admitted as a recipient of service?

[1]  19 years ago Bill Bytheway produced the book Ageism: Rethinking Ageism. The above story is in the book ISBN 0-335-19175-4.  It is inside chapter 6.  I am interested in reading what you think.

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