Archives for posts with tag: children

Later this week I am going to a talk about age friendly cities. To me this should mean cities which are friendly to people of all ages but they are always about being ‘old age’ friendly! As usual the presenter is a young woman which means I will react as usual by wondering what she knows about living in a city as an older person. She will have read quite a bit about it but the chances are the books she will have read will have been written by other younger people. Most of them don’t even think of discussing the issue with real older people!
If we look back at how cities were created, with people living in rural communities moving to where jobs were in cities, which hadn’t themselves adjusted to suddenly increasing populations, it seems obvious to me that cities are a problem for everyone. Perhaps the exception are younger people who love being crowded together with the chance of mass entertainment which goes with it.
I maintain that cities are alien to most humans. We, or our ancestors, moved from being surrounded by country life and scenery to masses of concrete. We are beginning to realise how unhealthy this is by a move to create inner city gardens, particularly vegetable gardens, and vertical gardens to cover the masses of concrete. We are beginning to realise that humans need that connection with nature.
Even apart from that the needs of older people in cities are often little different from that of most other residents. We may be slower and less mobile but parents with young children have similar needs, particularly when it comes to transport and steps. Accommodation can be a problem for older people but then if we look at the homeless they cover all age groups. Similarly with the need for communities for people to belong to. Sickness and access to treatment is also a multi-age problem.
We could do a lot more to make cities friendly for all ages, including older people. My own personal wish is to get rid of the awful ‘concrete’ atmosphere. I accept that building homes and office blocks on a small space need high rise concrete but lets try to disguise it. I’ve already mentioned vertical gardens but let’s also make sure apartment and office blocks have their concrete faces broken up by balconies, and encourage people to use them for plants. The owner of one such home in Sydney has flowers and vegetables (potatoes!) growing on her balcony. It breaks up the concrete fa├žade and brings nature back to the city.
I wonder if I’ll manage to keep quiet in the talk I’m going to? After all, she is being flown out here from Canada on a scholarship to tell us about her expertise. I wonder if she’ll have a different view when she is old herself!

I spent over 50 years as a teacher which means I have a pretty good view of the historical changes, or lack of them, in this field. Towards the end of my career I ended up tutoring at a University which gave me a more extensive view. I had started to realise that one thing we do really well in schools is to knock imagination out of children. This was confirmed one day when I asked a group of undergraduates in a sociology class to imagine that they were Health Ministers and I wanted to know what major changes they would want to make. My request was met with gasps of horror- how could I ask them to do such a thing? Their lives were built on facts to be regurgitated in the next exam! I suspect that this attitude is a result of mass education and an overfull curriculum in our schools. I seem to remember a researcher into children’s ‘modern’ illnesses, such as hyperactivity, also blaming our mass education system for that problem too.
In Australia there is a move to rewrite the school curriculum yet again! The signs at this stage are that it will be more of the same, yet again.
We are beginning to recognise the need for talented teachers (the low pay doesn’t make it an attractive job!) but I feel that there is an even greater need for talented school principals who create an atmosphere in which such teachers can operate and flourish. Unless we have such an environment we stilt children’s growth and stifle free thinking which is vital in the modern competitive world.
I wrote a letter to this effect for our local newspaper and it occurred to me that as I am no longer an employee I can tell it as I see it. It is a point of view unlikely to be supported or repeated by those still in the system. There would be negative repercussions if they expressed such views. Not only do we stifle innovative thought amongst our students but serving staff are equally stifled. To me this is a reflection on the qualifications and talent of those in the top jobs.
Yet these people at the top who do the stifling will be contributing to harnessing, sorry educating, the next generation through yet another curriculum which meets neither their needs nor the country’s needs. Will we never learn?

We hear so much about life expectancy increasing resulting in there being more older people in society that we tend to forget other aspects of our changing society which also affect us.
Three major changes are the effect of birth control, meaning that we were able to control the number of children we had, easier divorce so that more people are having other partners and the fact that travel is so much easier.
All of these have a big effect at Christmas which is essentially a family time. The first and last changes mean that we have fewer children and that many of them have moved away from the places of birth. Sometimes the parents have moved away too which complicates getting together at Christmas. ‘Blended’ marriages often result in a couple having different offspring which can add to the problem that whoever you spend Christmas with is possibly not the offspring of one of you. What if the new union follows a bitter and nasty divorce which means the parents may not want to encounter each other. Add to this mix blended families in which the parents may both have offspring from previous marriages and also have their own children. This was all rare, or didn’t happen at all, before the changes mentioned above altered society considerably.
All this probably leads to more people not spending time with their own children and are perhaps facing a lonely Christmas. Some communities, particularly the churches, are aware of this and often organise Christmas parties for those in this situation in the community.
My thoughts turn to those in aged care facilities who face a family-less Christmas, particularly if others in the facility have their families visiting them. I’m sure the staff do their best to take away the loneliness but the reality is still there. There must be many people whose children are too far away to visit, whose children (and partners) may have passed on before them, who didn’t have children and those for whom the blended family situation is far too complicated for them to join in Christmas celebrations. I suspect that these people are overlooked by the community who tend to think in terms of people having adequate shelter and food forgetting that they need more at such a family time.
I’m not sure how large the problem is or how we cater for it but I suspect it will become an increasing problem. When people had many children in the past at least some of them would have returned for this family season, particularly when many of them stayed around their birthplace following their marriages. Even if we don’t have statistics to show how big the problem is at least we should be aware that society is changing in ways which are having unrecognised consequences. Loneliness is hard at any time but is particularly so at a traditionally family time.