Immigrants In Time

Immigrants In Time – Do We All Become Unwanted Aliens In The End?

Immigrants In Time
Immigrants In Time

‘Immigrants in time’ is an expression I heard many years ago. I have no idea who coined the phrase or what they meant by it. However, as I have elderly parents I think I know exactly what is meant by ‘immigrants in time’.

My parents are now aged 87 and 89 and over the last 15 or so years, I have watched with sadness as they become strangers in their own land.

The fault is not theirs; they do not have any cognitive diseases. It is simply a failing of modern life to be kinder and more inclusive towards the elderly.

As a child, I do not remember my many older relatives being made to feel so alien as many feel now. Back then, we really did respect our elders and they seemed to be welcome everywhere. Parties were all about family and we all jammed into the tiniest of houses – young and old together.

Immigrants In Time
The All-Inclusive Family Our
Grandparents remembered.

What has changed? Is it technology and the instant nature of everything that has made the world so impatient and intolerant of anyone over the age of 20? Is it the growing addiction to the impossible standards of ‘beauty’ pushed by the media and film industry? Have real, ageing faces and bodies become so offensive to young people that they despise them?

When I am out and about with my parents, I am acutely aware of their discomfort and bewilderment at how their town has changed. It is no longer a place they really know that well. And the general population, once respectful and polite to the elderly, seems to have no tolerance for anyone who cannot move at 90 miles an hour.

Immigrants In Time Face Subtle Discrimination In Many Different Ways

The term ‘immigrant in time’ came back to me a few months ago when my mother was the victim of some petty, unpleasant rudeness which I firmly believe was age-related. The incident made me realise what it must be like to be in any group that is on the fringes of society and treated badly by those in the mainstream.

We were in a garden centre. My mother wanted some spring bedding plants and we had enjoyed wandering round a garden centre just outside my parents’ hometown. My mum is the most inoffensive, gentle person I know. To be mean to her would be like kicking a puppy. That did not stop the woman at the checkout.

We stood in line waiting to pay. I had a couple of things too and stood behind my mum. As we stood there, the tray of plants she was holding was dripping dirty water.

When she had paid, my mum asked the checkout woman, very politely as she does, if she could please have something to put her small tray of plants in. A shop assistant would normally slide the tray into a plastic bag but the woman hadn’t bothered.

Immigrants In Time
Completely Lacking In Grace

As the request left my mother’s lips, the checkout woman, who was around 50, looked at me and cast her eyes up giving a little smirk at the same time. The look said, ‘so sorry you are being held up by this stupid old woman who is being difficult by asking for a bag’.

It was intended as a conspiratorial exchange between two ‘younger’ women saying, ‘flipping old people!’ I was meant to secretly smile back to let her know us ‘younger’ people have to ‘tolerate’ the elderly.

It was a subtle, secret exchange over my mother’s head and took no account of her humanity or feelings, should she chance to notice. There was no respect for a lovely, aging woman who was enjoying an afternoon out and spending money which would undoubtedly pay staff wages.

What did I do? I exploded. I went absolutely berserk. I shocked myself, I shocked my mother, I shocked the queue behind me and I shocked the other shoppers who were quietly browsing. Most of all, I shocked the checkout woman who had no idea the woman she secretly insulted was my mother.

Immigrants In Time

I am usually a very quiet, peaceful sort of person who hates confrontation. However, something inside me snapped because I had encountered this snide, silent insult once too often.

In a very loud voice, I asked the checkout woman who the hell she thought she was. I asked her why she had given me ‘the look’ when my mum had simply asked for something to put her plants in. The woman went the deepest shade of crimson I have ever seen. She stuttered out a denial and said she had no idea what I meant. No? Are you serious?

I pointed out that even if the person she insulted with her ‘look’ had not been my mother, I still would not have colluded with this insidious form of bullying. That kind of thing is utterly abhorrent to me.

My poor mum just stood there horrified. My dad and my husband who were waiting over by the exit used it rather too quickly for my liking and went out to sit in the car. Thanks guys! They are English – what more can I say – we don’t do confrontation.

Before we left, I turned and addressed the queue advising them to leave their intended purchases behind and go somewhere where the staff have some care and respect for ALL age groups. The checkout woman’s humiliation was complete.

I was fuming. When we got outside and I was able to explain what had happened, my mum started to talk about other incidents where she and my dad had been treated poorly while out shopping.

People barging past them impatiently because they are very slow. People tutting behind them causing mum and dad to stand back, bewildered, to let rude, impatient people pass them.

Don’t get me wrong, the whole of the UK is not like this, just some people. However, it seems to be getting worse. My parents often feel like strangers in their own land when they go out.

Immigrants In Time
Misty Memories of Another Place In Time

They don’t speak the same language any more and they don’t move at the same speed as younger people.  They don’t understand why things are not made to last anymore and they wonder why the good manners that people used to have seem to be a thing of the past.

When we hear of immigrants being treated badly and discriminated against, we tend to think of an immigrant as someone from another country. British born people in their 80s and 90s may not be immigrants in the true sense of the word but, they do come from another time vastly different to this one. They truly are immigrants in time and I am not surprised that they go out alone less and less. There are still kind and gentle people around who realise that everyone has a right to walk on the streets at whatever speed they can manage but those who have no time for the aged seem to be on the increase.

As far as my outburst at the rude checkout woman goes, I have no regrets because I doubt she will ever do it again.

Is this just a UK thing? I would love to hear from people in other countries about how their ageing population is treated.

Visit the Age UK website to find out what is being done to help the aging population in the UK.

#MidLifeLuv Linky

17 thoughts on “Immigrants In Time”

  1. Hi Gilly, I love this, in a sadly commiserating way. I have watched my own mom age–she just turned 75. She is still very active and outgoing and chipper, but she looks every day of 75. It’s getting harder to watch her age, because I know and remember the funny, energetic, traffic-stopping-beautiful green-eyed brunette she used to be. That woman is still there, but, like she always says…she is now trapped inside this “old” body and feels like she’s “invisible”. For a once-beautiful woman, that is not a fun place to be. She tries to make the best of it and jokes about how she likes the age-advantage, where people kindly offer to carry her luggage when she travels “Here, you shouldn’t be lifting that; let ME help you,” which is great. But still.

    Unfortunately it’s not just a UK thing. I think here in the US it might be even worse, because here, we get the *eye roll* over just about anyone who isn’t young and beautiful.

    For myself, I feel like I’m aging well, but I’m not looking forward to getting to the age where you become invisible or, worse, annoying. :/
    Stef recently posted…Still Here, Just Busy (A Fall Update)My Profile

    1. Thanks for this lovely comment Steph. We have so much in common. The eye roll thing is horrible – it just trashes a person’s humanity. I have been invisible for ages now and I am used to it but it does upset me that people are so superficial. It is hard watching your own mother age while you are coping with your own journey. It’s like a graphic reminder of what is coming! My parents are in their late 80s – still in their own home but very dependent on us. Thanks for sharing your experience in this area.

      1. Oh, yes…I’m heading for invisible soon, too. I had to realize that awhile back, when I realized the admiring glances in my direction were actually aimed at my 19 and 16-year-old daughters. *sigh* Actually, it can be kind of fun, if you look at it like an opportunity to wear whatever the hell you feel like, because WHO CARES? no one. 😀

        I’ll be that old lady wearing purple and turquoise and bangles… heehee

        I’m having to watch my mom age AND be sort of homeless, as she lost her apartment in a foreclosure after her bout with cancer/chemo/radiation, right at the point in our lives where we couldn’t help her financially. She was able to live with a friend in Florida for awhile, but that situation ended when the landlord there found out my mom isn’t a caregiver (which the friend needs), but rather just a friend who was *care-giving*. She had to move out and is now living with my single 40-year-old brother full-time. You might imagine how well *that* is going…definitely not anyone’s favorite solution to the situation.
        Stef recently posted…Still Here, Just Busy (A Fall Update)My Profile

        1. Oh crap – your poor brother and poor mother too! It can’t be wonderful for either of them. And a worry for you too I would guess. Illness is a terrible thing because of the knock on effect – like losing your home. What a blow after going through all that. My parents have had serious illnesses in the last 10 years – both had cancer and dad has ongoing heart problems managed with drugs. I dread the day when one goes. I say thank God for paint, music, writing and solitude when I can get it!!!!!

          1. Huge yes on all counts. It’s not what any of us wanted for her life, (or his). We tried having her live here, even part of the year, but it just can. not. work. No. Had to tell her that, and it was horrid.

            Also huge “yes” to solitude. Why does everyone think solitude equals lonely?

          2. Hey listen, you’re talking to someone who got pissed off the other day when a guy rattled my letterbox while posting a flyer through it. Even that was too much company for me. And I’m not kidding. I flinched because it broke into my thoughts. People keep asking me if I am depressed. I’m not, I just prefer being alone now (apart from my husband who is so lovely – no pressure at all from him). I used to love being with people but now I don’t. Can’t fight it can we? I love the purple thing you said. That’s me too. It is quite nice to dress purely for yourself. ‘Style blogs’ for the over 50s crack me up! Style – are you kidding me? My style is now boho bag lady! We should swap email addresses and talk in private – this is a bit public!!!! If you fill in the contact form, I will get yours and I can email you back.

  2. Hi Gilly,
    I know Elena. I actually consider her a friend. I am a sociology major, so I find your article fascinating from that perspective.
    Sadly, in answer to your question, no, it is no different here in the U.S. There is absolutely age discrimination against the elderly.
    What is so sad is the following. I teach history. I teach Asia in ancient and medieval times. Asians respect the elderly. What ever happened to age brings wisdom? I teach medieval Africa. They respected their elders too–age brought power.
    Well, I combined history and sociology on your blog. Thanks for coming to my blog today and commenting on my Flipboard article.

    1. Hi Janice, really pleased to meet you on here and thank you so much for reading and commenting. Your teaching subjects do combine here to make very interesting observations and I welcome them on this post. Sad state of affairs though. Stuff has happened in the last couple of days that has reduced me to tears but I will fight on against this gradual diminishing of care and respect for humans as we age. Thanks again.

  3. Your experience really highlights the changing values when it comes to respecting our elders in society today. Good for you for putting that rude woman in her place. I am currently living in Canada, and in my corner of this vast country, Ontario, I can say that I notice a difference between the rural areas and the city in the ways elders are treated. In the rural areas, people in general, and I include millennials, take time to make conversation. I have stood behind seniors as they exchange conversation with sales staff and each other. And it is okay. Sometimes we need to slow down. It is also about customer service, and store staff are taught to ask if you have found everything were looking for in the store. Retail is taking a real beating here, and needs the returning customer.
    Now the city is a different story. My nearest city is Toronto. I would imagine any senior person who grew up here would feel like an immigrant in time, as the landscape is constantly changing. Maybe because it is a young city and needs to update its infrastructure, but there is a definite coldness when it comes to accommodating our elders. It is very difficult to navigate the city if you are a not fleet of foot, and watch out for the millennials, as they may run over you in their rush around the city.
    All that being said, there is never any excuse for rudeness, and sometimes you just have to be the messenger of that fact. Well done, Gilly!

    1. Hi Judith, thank you for your brilliant comment. It gives a good idea of how attitudes vary geographically depending on the size and kind of community. Our nearest city is London, 70 miles away, and there is no way I would take my parents there now – they would feel like they were on Mars!!!!! Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment, I enjoyed reading what you had to say.

  4. What a lovely piece. It’s sad isn’t it that so many of us have lost that respect for the older generation. Yet, when I visit my father’s family in Italy the elderly are respected. I wonder though if this is also now changing for the worst.
    Fran x

    1. Hi Fran, thank you for reading and commenting – much appreciated. I would be really worried if Italians started showing the same kind of trend. Italians have always seemed so family orientated to me. But who knows? We are living in strange times.

  5. Wow! How very,very true and sad. My parents are both 85 and my mom has had a bad few years health wise. The whole medical profession I have found very hard to deal with. They either speak to her like she’s 2 or give the impression that they just don’t want to bother with her so just hurry up and die already. So to answer your question, no this is not a British thing.

    1. Thanks for your reply Elena – it must be so humiliating when the people you trust your health care to talk to you like a child – just because you are elderly. It is getting very bad here with euthanasia being talked about more and more in a very matter of fact way by young people. Did you see the film Logan’s Run back in the 70s? Well worth a watch – that scenario is coming for sure!

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