The Art of Ageing

Photo: Ludmila Yilmaz

What’s the secret to ageing gracefully when you begin to feel invisible?

I once watched in awe as a woman pushed between an elderly gentleman and my pram to grab the morning’s newspaper.  He looked at me and our fleeting glance spoke volumes of declining value.

I’m beginning to sense a subtle shift myself.  Banking staff speak to me of interest rates like I’m learning a new language.  The male staff in Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi are less attentive and my humour increasingly falls flat with strangers (I really should stop trying out material on people I don’t know).

One day heads will swivel for my daughter and I’m okay with that.  It’s not the appearance thing that concerns me, it’s my voice.  Will it still be heard?  Will it still have value?  These are things I can’t answer but I’m fortunate to have family who will hopefully still be listening.

My mother has worked in aged care my entire life.  I spent school holidays eating free ice-cream out of the pantry, playing bingo with dementia residents and generally annoying everyone by madly playing a pianola with sheer glee.  The residents would call my sisters and I boys and proudly show off the trinkets in their bedrooms.

We later earned an income cleaning rooms and helping the kitchen staff.  I would nurse hangovers on the resident’s beds, help with bra straps and loneliness.  Yes there was the odd “what’s with Hazel’s eyebrows?” and “Gah, I saw Beryl in the nude!” but I will always be grateful for the affinity it afforded me.

My mum still works in aged care.  My children and my sister’s children now visit on a regular basis and we’ve come to know some of the residents.  My favourite is a Scottish lady who reminds me of Dusty Springfield.  I feel like the room lights up with her in it.

I’m proud of the way my mother treats the residents.  I know it’s not always easy and lord knows aged care and child care are two industries grossly underpaid but she does it with respect and humour.  We joke that she will transition from employee to resident but in all honesty I think our siblings will be fighting over who gets to keep her.

In a perfect world we would all treat each other with respect and humour.  Particularly the invisible ones, because sometimes they need it the most.

Do you ever feel invisible?