Old people. So called because they are “old”.
Grey hair, wrinkles, bent posture…toothless grin. Old.
When I was little, old people were nice, polite, jolly people. Some had blue rinsed hair, some had the faint whiff of stale tobacco but all were happy cheery, not necessarily well off but always had 50p for you to buy sweets with. My nan would often take me to her local Over 60’s club to help out and basically show me off. 60 seemed like a million miles away and those that went seemed well over 60, white haired and old.
They were a pleasant bunch. Granted, there were one or two curmudgeonly ones. But these were generally only there to be awkward and rude to people. The rest seemed a jolly happy lot considering most of them had been through a World War. Mrs E, my nan’s closest friend, was a prime example of this always a happy happy face even when complaining about the cold or upset that someone hadn’t used the correct hot water urn. Perhaps it was the medication that kept them so jolly (I understand that a lot of doctors prescribed LSD and various amphetamines to that age group then in an effort to keep them under control) or perhaps they had some discovered some inner peace through the act of retirement or maybe they were just putting on a happy face to hide their true twisted and perverse secrets.
I think my nans would have been about 70 at this time. They both looked it with their grey hair, friendly wrinkles and false teeth. Even granddad had looked a bit wrinkly and he had died some years before. There seemed, at that time, to be an abundance of elderly people about. Mr Dooley, (the kindly gentleman who would often stop me on my paper round and give me £5 for just letting him talk to me about when he used to be the village paper boy) although old in years, was polite to everyone (often he would shout or wave hello to passers-by “Hello Mr Higgins!”, “Nice weather Mrs Griffiths” he would call “Hello Mr Dooley” “Good evening Rex” they would reply); Dave, the elderly projectionist from the Village Cinema; Jack the doorman from the Village Institute; Mrs Bond (who must be pushing 120 now); the mad old bat who every night would scrub the pavement outside her house. All regular all round old people full of interesting stories, nice cakes and 50p’s.
Then gradually they all started dying off, as should be expected of old people, only to be slowly replaced by rude, pushy pensioners with attitude. Gone were the blue rinses. Gone were the 50p’s. Gone were the “Hello Mr Gnomepants” calls from across the street. Ok some of the new pensioners are old school as it were. I know that Mrs Owen always seems to be in a happy mood (though I hear tell she can turn like milk left out during a thunderstorm), Mr & Mrs Pritchard seem to be jolly enough. My mum and dad (both in the 65-75 age bracket) are maturing into fine specimens of pensioner but I’ve never seen them palm off a 50p to a young child or owt.
Instead, it seems, pensioners today are insular and not doing what they should be doing. I haven’t seen a push-me-pull-you-tartan shopping trolley in ages. Nor have I seen a plastic head scarf (used for protecting ones newly hair sprayed and sculptured hair from the ravages of passing buses), a tube of Sterident or a packet of complan in ages. I think the last time I saw an oldie giving a young one 50p was when Mrs Jones accidentally fell to the floor and that kind young man in the balaclava helped her up in exchange for her purse then running off before he could be thanked. Gone even are the faint whiffs of stale tobacco and lavender, the smell of sherry, the miasma of hairspray and piss. Gone.
Where have all the old people gone? Are they being abducted from the streets and forced into care homes? There to spend the rest of their days smelling of stale biscuits? What has happened to all those 50ps? Where are they? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve gotten older and old people have always been thin on the ground and miserable duffers. Maybe theres a big factory that turns old people into Turkey Twizzlers or Soylent Green. Maybe. Maybe not….