If they’re lucky they are ‘invited’ (often months ahead) to a meal or gathering, where they’re largely ignored, as children and grandchildren alike barely look up from their phones.One 60-year-old described how she delivered birthday presents to her grandchildren — and was barely acknowledged. It wasn’t always thus: growing up in the Fifties, I may not have always looked forward to the obligatory weekly family get-together — either sitting round a coal fire in my grandmother’s modest kitchen, or sat on stiff- backed horsehair chairs in the ‘front room’ — but I always went and I always behaved myself.I think it’s time for families to schedule a meeting and talk —really talk.Not skirt around each other, or slot in a quick chat on the way to hockey practice.Now our children are placing their parents squarely at the bottom of their priority list in their busy lives. They daren’t suggest or guide, never utter a direct or ‘tactless’ word. You mustn’t say a word.’I’ve witnessed polished women, the sort who might have gone to finishing school, smiling feebly as their grandchildren piggishly shovel food into their mouths, wipe their noses on their hands and vandalise furniture.
In neglecting your old folk, you’re not just being thoughtless — you’re threatening their lives. We have to stop being so meek and reclaim our role as involved elders.Those relatives were never isolated, always included in everything.Even in advanced stages of illness, geriatric wards or care homes would have been unthinkable — considered akin to the workhouse.How many grandparents (or parents) do you know who feel they can just ‘pop in’ to see their children or grandchildren?Many have to make ‘appointments’ (often lasting about as long as the routine GP appointment).
The older woman, who struggled into the taxi office one morning, made me catch my breath in pity and anger. Could it be that this woman was actually afraid of her own daughter?