Oldies are golden

[As published in July/August BayBuzz magazine.]

They didn’t freak out when the cell phone networks went haywire, because they knew how to speak to actual humans face-to-face. Self-reliant know-it-alls with their powdered milk, their transistor radios and their landlines.

I can’t stand old people.

Especially at the moment. Coming here and taking all the jobs. Turning up during a crisis and just getting on with it, without complaining … and often bringing a casserole … they’ve made themselves … from produce they grew themselves.

I hate the way they’re so capable, and just get on with the task at hand. I hate how they know stuff, and have the emotional intelligence not to force it down your throat. I hate how they know how to do things like grow potatoes and darn socks and recite John Masefield and score cribbage. I hate how they must have ouchy knees all the time but they still muck in. I hate how chatty they are, even when they don’t know you. It’s so annoying when they’re so nice, and kind, and considerate, and hard working.Everywhere I turn at the moment there’s an old person showing me up.

I’m tired just trying to hold down a day job and raise teenagers; I have no energy for shovelling silt. I do my bit by scrolling through social media and giving a thumbs up emoji to people doing the clean-up. And there they are – in the background (because they have well-adjusted egos and don’t seek the limelight) – Old People! With spades! And wheelbarrows! One using a digger (and not just for the ‘gram).

There’s old people doing Meals on Wheels, old people boxing up the yummies at Nourished For Nil, old people helping Neela Neela with her daily cook-a-thon. There’s old people driving utes and scrubbing fences. Old people cutting back hedges and filling trailers. Old people lifting heavy things, and SMILING! And they’re working for NOTHING. They’re volunteers, giving their time for free because they’re retired and have plenty of it to spare. I know old people who still have day jobs, and they’re way beyond “retirement age”. Then after work they do the Census collection, or run the op-shop, or coach badminton. And on the weekends they marshall at the Flaxmere Park Run or cleanout the cattery at the SPCA. They’re just show-offs. And now they’re out there with their flannel sleeves rolled up over their psoriasis-encrusted elbows getting stuck in, being useful, making a difference.During the catastrophe itself, they were the ones who knew which cupboard held the candles, where the batteries were kept, and how to wash dishes by hand. They didn’t freak out when the cell phone networks went haywire, because they knew how to speak to actual humans face-to-face. Self-reliant know-it-alls with their powdered milk, their transistor radios and their landlines.

Old people are so resourceful too, so frugal, so sensible. They know how to mend things and wear things out, they know how to ‘make do or do without’. They’re the OG recyclers, not ‘cause it’s cool’, but because there wasn’t much to go around ‘in their day’. Our consumption and consumerism just looks so much worse lined up alongside their patched pants and preserving skills. Why can’t they just open a single-serve, plastic-wrapped, shop-bought fruit’n’jelly-pot and put their feet up?

Why can’t they settle down and watch some Coronation Street, and complain about sciatica and Prince Harry. Why do they have to be so able and willing and easy to get along with! Their get-up-and-go needs to get up and go!

With all the clean-up needed across Hawke’s Bay, if it wasn’t for the over-achieving old eager-beavers we’d be in an even more sorry state. Then the government might take pity on us and see we can’t possibly sort things out for ourselves.

But no! All these oldies keep showing up and saving the day! They’re making everyone under 65 look lazy and just a little bit useless.

Old people should stick to driving badly and eating mush, not backing trailers and making first-class Thai food for essential workers. It’s not fair! They are robbing us of the fantasy that when we get old we can just kick back and be looked after by youngsters.

(Although, to be honest, when I’m ancient I hope I don’t have to rely on someone like me to make sure I get through the week!)

Old people need to chill. You’ve had your chance. You’ve done the daily grind. You’ve paid your taxes. You’ve made things happen. Now back off and give the rest of us a chance.

No wonder our generation (and the one beneath us) is so useless, old people keep stepping up and getting the job done!

Old people – with all their vim and their vigour, and their joie de vivre – make me feel old.

In all seriousness, and with all sarcasm set aside, thank you to every person ‘of a certain age’ who has lifted a spade, pushed a broom, slopped a mop, baked a cake, driven a digger, backed a trailer, hauled, stirred, stacked, swept, hacked, heaved and helped out in any way. Your service to our community during this difficult time has been noticed, admired and hugely appreciated by all of us. 


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