The passage of time and how to deal with it

Roger Daltrey
Roger Daltrey – not my great aunt!

I went to a family funeral this week – that of my Great Aunt Jean who was 92, a lovely woman who I spent a fair bit of time with when I was a kid.

I have many fond childhood memories of family gatherings, evenings playing cards (for pennies) and walking the dog with her, but as is often the way, though, I haven’t seen her much at all in the recent past. In fact, I struggled to remember the last time I’d seen both her and her husband, John.

In fact, I probably haven’t seen much of my extended family for a number of years – not a deliberate choice, but just ‘one of those things’.

So the funeral was a wonderful chance to catch up, but also to be reminded of age and ageing. Everyone looked broadly the same, except most of us were all a bit older, greyer – possibly bigger – and slower.

Ageing isn’t exactly a revelation. We all do it – but for the most part it’s imperceptible. We often only notice when we see an old photo of ourselves and the physical difference feels rather marked. Continue reading “The passage of time and how to deal with it”

Let’s talk about death, baby*

A not-insignificant part of my week has been taken up discussing the aftermath of loved ones dying.

As part of our continual reassessment of the free advice guides we supply at Age UK, we run focus groups with older people to ensure we’re covering the right topics.

With information about money there’s little room for leeway, but an emotional topic like bereavement often requires more consideration.

Thus, I’ve run two workshops with small groups in both London and Norwich encouraging people to openly discuss their feelings and how they coped after someone close to them died.

Taboo subject

Death is an odd topic. Most of us hate speaking about it. In spite of its inevitability, it’s a ‘big’ issue that either manifests itself in complete avoidance, or else the phrase ‘Oh, you don’t want to talk about that!’

But actually it’s exactly what we should be doing. Not only before we shuffle off – in order to plan and get your affairs straight – but also after the event when those left behind are at their most raw and exposed.

Everyone we spoke to agreed that – no matter how hard it can be – talking about the person who’s died and also your own feelings is the way through it.

Confront – don’t avoid

If you’ve been through a bereavement, one of the most excruciating parts is when you first encounter others after the death and you know they’re worried about you crying and – in many cases – they visibly avoid you.

To some extent that’s natural because many of us haven’t been through a similar experience, but what we really want is for someone just to offer a few words of condolence, ask how you’re feeling and then treat them as normal.

Bereaved people don’t sprout horns or wings – they may just be a little more sensitive than usual.

So the next time someone you know loses a close relative or friend, do the right thing and just talk.
*With apologies to Salt ‘N’ Pepa

Why loneliness is so desperate

Working at Age UK it’s impossible to escape the topic of loneliness.

It affects upwards of 1m older people in the UK and is practically invisible to most of us.

I came across this piece by Judith Shulevitz from 2013 talking about “The Lethality of Loneliness” and – specifically – why loneliness is so damaging:

“Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.”

There are things that can be done, but it’s tough. Lonely people are – by their very nature – hard to find and identify.

– If you want to find out more about the issue or help someone who may be affected head to