Great galloping grannies

Cover of The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the RulesThe writing is on the wall for restful retirements and going gently into that good night. It’s just not enough now to hand out sweeties to the grandkiddies and have a monthly perm. And no one is expecting any words of wisdom from you either.

Instead pensioners are required to recreate themselves. Nowadays, you must become more interesting, eccentric even. And don’t start whimpering that you have no good role models,  because here’s two for starters:

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared was first past the starter’s post in this new geriatric genre. Hot on its heels we have The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules. And despite the light approach in this book, the message  is clear that we take bad care of our elders: the old ladies work out that they would be better treated in prison than in their old people’s homes, hence their crime spree.

And if you do have to reminisce (“when we” this and “when we” that), make sure you’re upbeat and that they get the message that growing old is So Much Fun. And that you really want them to know that you had The Time of Your LifeCover of The Time of Your Life, an adorable little book of quotes and witticisms compiled by John Burningham.

Everything goes full circle, so they say, and you might like to scrap actual reading and dip into a couple of adult picture books instead. Granny Alphabet by Tim Walker has gorgeous, quirky little sketches of game old birds.You’ll probably recognise someone you know – and it may well be yourself!

Live your life to the full, is what comes across so humorously in all these books. But I’d also like to read some factual accounts of pensioners camel packing across the Nullarbor Plain, or paddling up the Mekong. Do you have any suggestions for me?


What are you doing here?

Cover of What are you doing here?Dementia. It is a hard thing. Local author Janet Wainscott has written a book called What are you doing here? Reflections on Dementia. She tells the story of her Mum’s dementia as it progresses over many years, and shares other people’s experiences too – at all stages, from those earliest incidents indicating something is wrong:

Later, D. and her brother found a kitchen cupboard where their mother has hidden a pile of wooden chopping boards marked with deep black circles from the bottom of overheated pots and pans. She’d obviously been having difficulty for some time, but had managed, just, to cover it up and hide the evidence.

This small book combines medical knowledge with observation. It is also beautifully written – in a support club, Janet sees The Press used as “reality orientation”:

The newspaper is normal. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what you’re reading or you read it upside-down, because it’s familiar. Even people with no language will look at the newspaper and at the pictures.

There is such honesty in this book – toileting issues, guilt, the toughness of being a caregiver, and the pain of having to get your parent into a resthome. But they need to be talked about – What are you doing here? does it in a way we can all identify with.

Visit Janet’s website for more information.

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