Introducing ageing
Introducing ageing

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Introducing ageing

5 What about the Fourth Age?

Described image
Figure 5

In Activity 7 you are going to begin thinking about the Fourth Age by meeting Molly Davies, who lives quite a different life from Monty Meth.

Activity 7 A day in the life of Molly Davies

Allow about 30 minutes

Click on the following link to watch Video 3 through twice, as before, and fill in Interactive table 3 to compare Molly’s life with the comments you made about your own and Monty Meth’s in Activity 2. You will see the comments you made about yourself and about Monty previously are filled in below.

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Skip transcript: Video 3 Molly’s story

Transcript: Video 3 Molly’s story

Video 3 Molly’s story

[CLOCK TICKING]

MOLLY DAVIES:
I’ve had my left hip done. And we thought my right hip had gone. But doctor wouldn’t let me have it done, because she said my circulation was so bad -- well, I would probably have had a stroke afterwards, which -- what could happen. So they didn’t operate. So I’ve had to put up with it.
Well, now -- apart from the hip being bad -- I may have a hernia, and my legs are bad, and I’ve got osteoarthritis. In the night, I wake up and I’m in pain. I’m allowed eight painkillers a day -- six at night to help me at night. They last about two or three hours, and then I have to take two more.
During the day, I’m only allowed to take two more. But I have got patches on my leg -- they’ve increased that with morphines going round my body. In this chair, I’m all right. I’m not in pain. And I feel fine sitting here. And I can’t believe it when I get up, and I find I can’t walk about and can’t do things. It comes as a shock.
I sit in my chair most of the day, but I can walk into the kitchen, and with difficulty I can walk to the front door. Some days it is very, very painful to do it, and other days it isn’t too bad. I can’t always see everything I’m eating. [LAUGHS] A bit of a nuisance. Ha!
I’ve read avidly since I was a teenager. I love reading. Until just before Christmas, oh, I was reading beautifully -- my big print books, and my bills are sent in big print. And then I discovered I couldn’t see my big print. So now -- excuse me -- the only way I can read is -- the optician’s been very good.
And I’ve got this from her. And I can read line by line with this. I can read 10 pages, and then I’m tired out, I’m afraid. So I have to put it down and sit for about 10 minutes, and then I read again. Now, I can’t see to write now, but I still write.
I’ve got cards by my chair, and if I want to send someone a card, I get it out and feel the edges and write. And the last two cheques I’ve written, I found very difficult to write my cheques.
I like hearing people. And I suppose I do like sounds, because next door [INAUDIBLE] have taken over the house, and I love it when I hear him hammering next door.
INTERVIEWER
[LAUGHS]
MOLLY DAVIES:
[LAUGHS] I don’t know if the other neighbours like it, but I like hearing him there. I love flowers. Love flowers. Tulips are good. Daffodils, I can see beautifully. Orange and yellow. And when my sister was going to get geraniums, I said, if you’ll get white, light red -- can’t see dark red -- and lilac.
And she got me some of each colour.

[PHONE RINGING]

MOLLY DAVIES:
8304-1930.

[INDISTINCT FEMALE VOICE ON PHONE]

MOLLY DAVIES:
Speaking.

[INDISTINCT FEMALE VOICE ON PHONE]

MOLLY DAVIES:
Mobile Mobility?
I suppose, over the years, I’ve had to keep changing with what’s happened to me.
I’m going into a care home for four weeks -- yes. And things are happening at the moment, but thank you for calling. I won’t be here. Thank you. Bye-bye.
I’ve had two scooters, and that helped me get out and about. And that was lovely, because I could visit people. But before Christmas, things got worse, and I couldn’t get my scooter out of the house. So that’s ended that adventure.
I used to go walking and I loved the country. And I must say, I do miss going out. And you see -- as happens when you’re older, as I’m 90 -- I mean, some of our friends have gone ahead. And the others are now too aged to push me in my wheelchair.
There’s one person who’s going to take me out in my wheelchair, hopefully, in a few weeks’ time. But I’ve only been able to go out in it twice this year. So you’ve got to get used to the fact that you’re more or less confined to the house.
CARER:
OK. And there’s your apple. OK. I’m going to just clean --
INTERVIEWER
Tell me about your carers.
MOLLY DAVIES:
I have four now. Anna gets me up. When I come down, the fire’s on, the cat’s been let out in the garden, the cat’s been fed, given her pill because she’s got an overactive gland. All that’s done. She gets me up, gets my glass -- I have to put my glasses hearing aid in before I can do anything -- and washes me and that.
Very good. She gives me my breakfast. Now, all that is done, amazingly, in half an hour. Very -- couldn’t have anyone better than Anna. Wonderful. Well then, lunch time, someone pops up. Then tea time, someone else pops up. And then I have a cooked meal.
Then someone comes about quarter past eight. Now, she -- it seems funny having a hot water bottle now, but if they wrap my nightie around a hot water bottle, it helps my circulation. That’s done. The curtains are drawn. Water is put there because of all the tablets I’ve got to take in the night.
So the room is left all right. Now, I get myself to bed, because I go very late. I go up about quarter to twelve. Because I have to get up every two hours in the night, it would only mean getting up another time. And it’s very painful to get out and get in. Blinking nuisance.
So I get myself to bed. I just about manage that -- only just now. I’m very fortunate that people visit me a lot. Now, my sister -- of course, she’s retired now, and she’s 86. And bless her heart, she comes down every Saturday to make sure I’m all right.
She does my shopping every week. If anything happens and she can’t come, I’ve got a lovely friend Violet, who was sister in hospital. And I’ve been friendly with her now about 48 years, you see.
INTERVIEWER
You still go to the hairdresser, I hear --
MOLLY DAVIES:
Yes.
INTERVIEWER
Is that right?
MOLLY DAVIES:
The cabbie comes to the door, because doctor said I could fall any moment. Twice I’ve fallen, and I’ve had to use Linkline, which is wonderful. They’ve been to the house in six minutes to rescue me.
And the cabbie comes right to the door, and Em, who does my hair, they know I’m going, and what time. And they get me in. They put the chair up -- they raise the chair up. They put a special cushion in my back. And because I’ve got arthritis in my neck, I can’t sit in the chair and put my head back, as you would -- I have to stand.
And they know all these things and they cope with me. Sometimes I have to take painkillers halfway through. But I do it. And they give me coffee and biscuits halfway to keep me going. And I do that about every fortnight.
INTERVIEWER
And that’s very important to you, isn’t it?
MOLLY DAVIES:
Well, it helps. And also, you see, I’ve known Em all these years. They’re not just anyone, sort of thing. They are really friends now.
INTERVIEWER
And do you think much about the physical changes in your life?
MOLLY DAVIES:
I suppose I just get on and cope. My father was wonderful, I think. And he taught us to cope. And Mum had this terrific sense of humour that we always made -- we were taught to make the best of everything.
End transcript: Video 3 Molly’s story
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Video 3 Molly’s story
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Interactive table 3
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Comment

Here is how one person filled in the table:

Monty Meth Molly Davies
Living situation Lives with his wife, children have grown up and left home. On her own with paid carers coming in four times a day.
Health Really good for his age! Goes swimming every morning. Pretty poor. She mentions being in pain at night and whenever she is not in her chair. She cannot see well or hear properly. She has arthritis in her neck. She cannot get herself dressed, washed or fed without help.
Family responsibilities Does not mention any family responsibilities. His wife seems to be as healthy and active as Monty, so she does not seem to need any looking after. Does not mention any.
Paid work Does not do any paid work. None.
Unpaid work Does lots, especially through the Enfield Over-50s Forum. None.
Social life Seems very friendly with the group of people he swims with every day. Mentions going to the theatre. It seems likely that his work with the Enfield Over-50s Forum has sociable aspects. Not much. A friend sometimes takes her out in a wheelchair and you could see from the card she was writing that she had a visitor named ‘David’ recently. She describes her hairdresser as having become a friend, and goes to the hairdresser about every fortnight.
Busyness Seems very busy – he goes swimming every morning as well as all the other things. Not at all busy.
Satisfaction with life Seems very satisfied with his life. She says she loves flowers and enjoys looking at the ones in colours she can still see. She loved reading but finds it hard to do now. She does not seem unhappy with her life, but most of the things she says she likes she cannot really do anymore.

Although Molly is only three years older than Monty, her life looks quite different. Her health is poor, she is in pain a lot of the time, she rarely goes out of the house and she needs quite a lot of help with everyday tasks like getting washed and preparing food. Molly, unlike Monty, does not seem to be in the Third Age. In Laslett’s terms she might be described as in the Fourth Age of decline towards death.

In some situations, it is useful to have a terminology to distinguish between people like Molly and people like Monty. As Laslett argues, it is important not to characterise everyone in the later stages of life as needing extensive support and having serious health issues. However, when you look more closely at the lives of people in the Fourth Age, like Molly, Laslett’s simple description of decline, dependency and decrepitude can seem a bit crude and possibly even a bit insulting to the individuals living those lives.

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