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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Measuring Civilisation

I really like old people. They're pretty awesome, and I love to listen to their stories and hear their opinions. To be certain, not all old people are sweet old granny types -- some are downright mean and nasty.  But on balance, I tend to enjoy their company and they make me laugh, especially the cantankerous ones.  I think it's pretty shabby how a good portion of society treats old-age pensioners as if they're children or somehow incompetent, or worse, sending them off to a care home and deliberately forgetting about them.

My grandmother died earlier this year. She was 88-years-old, and she smoked and drank most of her life. Not exactly what one would classify a premature death. My family never put her into care either -- instead she lived part-time with my uncle and part-time with my mother.  In the last few years of her life, her body may have been fragile, her legs a bit weak (we sometimes made use of a wheelchair to get her around if her legs were sore and tired), her vision had deteriorated greatly, but her mind remained razor-sharp. She remembered everything and she didn't need a diary. She never missed anyone's birthday -- children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even the great-great-grandchild -- all of us got a card with money in it every year no matter how old we were. Same for Christmas.

Anyway, my grandmother did not die from drinking (about 4 to 5 pints per day up until she died) or from smoking, which she quit in her mid-70s, because it got too expensive. She never got lung cancer or had COPD or any of those smoking-attributable diseases.

She died from complications due to getting pneumonia, and her body was too old to recover.  See, she was independent, impatient and feisty, and she went outside on a cold winter's day to get something she had left in the car and didn't tell anyone that she was doing so. She was like that, my grandmother. "Don't tell me what to do. I'm fine," she would say ... a lot.  But on this day she slipped on a patch of ice and fell, fracturing her hip. She was not wearing her coat. And because she didn't tell anyone she went outside, no one knew she was out there.  She may have been outside for thirty to forty-five minutes before she was found.  And that's how she got pneumonia.

Which is how a lot of old people die, to be fair.

Around the corner from my home is a care home for the elderly. Smoking is not allowed in that facility, apparently, because every now and then when I walk past, I see an elderly resident outside, in the cold and wet weather, standing in an uncovered area, having a fag.  He's got to be in his mid-80s, I would think.  And when I see him out there, always alone, not another person in sight, I get angry about the public smoking ban. Really angry.  What if he falls?  How long before he gets pneumonia because of the anti-smoking public health zealots' insistence on saving everyone from themselves?

Is it fair to force old men and women into the cold so that they can smoke?  These people worked all of their lives, paid their taxes, raised families, fought wars in terrible conditions some of them, and so much more ... and we treat them like this?  Couldn't the care home at least provide a smoking room for their residents? Wouldn't that be the decent, humane thing to do?

I think it would. But what I do know? I suppose that while we pretending that we're protecting the health of the care home's workers, we are simultaneously killing off our most valuable members of society, the elderly, by forcing them outside.

And it pisses me off how the overly-restrictive public smoking ban is destroying our society and ruining people's lives, including our elderly, and that's a major reason why I'm writing this blog almost every day.  Maybe someone who does care will read this, and then we can roll back the smoking ban for our old-age pensioners.

Or we can just do nothing and continue to let them be treated worse than cattle and sheep.

How does that saying go?  Civilisation can be measured by how it treats their elderly?  Something like that?

Well, in my view, our civilisation has become even more barbaric and cruel.  I dare someone to defend the smoking ban in respect of forcing old people outside to my face. Because I will fucking clock you.