It was the nineteenth-century Liberal politician and prime minister Willim Ewart Gladstone who famously said “Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its peoples, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” His words are largely forgotten in the UK but they are often quoted by American undertakers seeking to big up their role and get inside their clients’ wallets. Care = spend.
Were Gladstone living today he would probably have broadened his message to take in the elderly and exclude US undertakers.
The Oldie magazine recently received an appeal from Ward 23, a care of the elderly ward at Bristol Royal Infirmary. The writer, Sue Nicholls, Ward Clerk, asked for money to buy basic toiletry items. She said, “Even the smallest of items such as a bar of soap would benefit our patients … we get single sachets of shower gel and shampoo, but they are unscented and don’t lather. Vile stuff.” Ward 23 hopes also to raise enough money to buy special chairs and footstools for the patients.
Vile treatment of the elderly is normal in our country. Punitive legislation has altered attitudes to black and minority ethnic people and all sorts of other people, but no one has thought it worthwhile to extend attitude-altering legislation to include old people. Nor are there any current plans for an Old People In Need telly-jamboree fundraising festival.
The manner in which a nation or community cares for its elderly is a measure of its attitude to its dead. We shan’t get death right until we change the way we treat our elders.
If you are inclined to send a donation or a little parcel to Ward 23, the address is: Ward 23, Uppwer Maudlin Street, Bristol BS2 8HW