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When I Get Older: My time with Ivy

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Gloria Hunniford Gloria Hunniford | 12:45 UK time, Wednesday, 4 July 2012

My main reflection after making When I Get Older is that it was a privilege to stay with Ivy in her home.

Ivy is a pensioner whose housing benefit doesn't cover her rent and she's in debt.

I found it challenging and humbling to live with her for four days and see how she had to analyse the £3 disposable income in her purse every day for food, clothing, toothpaste, toilet rolls, cleaning materials... you cannot do it.

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Gloria and Ivy go shopping

I will never shop in the same way again.

I don't have to analyse every crumb that I buy and Ivy absolutely did. For four days primarily we ate bread.

I said to her one morning, can I have an egg, and she said no, because egg and chips makes a dinner.

Also the point about Ivy that we didn't see in the programme is that she is illiterate. A lot of her bills she is not able to read and so her management of her debt was very bad.

At the same time, she was very honourable in meeting the payments but going further into debt.

It was the combination of that plus her considerable health problems that she was so worn down. She'd given up in attitude so that she didn't ask for help although the help was there.

Maybe like a lot of people she didn't know how to ask.

As a mum - and we all do this as parents - she was trying to shield her children from how bad things were for her.

I took her out for a meal once, my treat. She said to me afterwards, "Do you mind me asking how much that was?"

I said it was £48 and she went "Oh my goodness, that would have fed me for a month."

So there was a big intake of breath every so often.

Gloria Hunniford and Ivy laughing

Gloria and Ivy

Even though she knew her privately rented house was eating up all her money Ivy had never asked her local authority for help. She felt that there was no point because it was going to be a four or five year waiting list.

Everything I suggested, her answer was negative, negative, negative.

And it wasn't that I'm involved in TV, it's that somebody tweaked her life that bit and showed her that if you go to your local council they can help with your debt management, if you ask the housing association you might just get an apartment that's cheaper.

I believe that attitude towards ageing is crucial. No matter how near you are to your third life, as I call it, it's the attitude of keeping your brain stimulated and yourself busy.

It's getting up, keeping your friends, and doing stuff for yourself.

I do accept of course that someone like Ivy has health problems but she is quite strong and there are lots of things she can do for herself.

It didn't make the final cut but when we took her to literacy lessons she was top of the class - she realised she knew more than she thought she did.

Since the stimulation of being in the programme, Ivy now has a new life. She has a lovely, cosy apartment which is far more efficient and affordable. She hardly needs to turn the heating on because the heat rises from the flats below - another saving which helps.

It's close to her daughter and she's got that inbuilt family help back. For Ivy now there's a feel-good factor every day instead of sitting alone indoors.

Since we finished filming, she'll ring me up occasionally and she'll go "Gloria, I bought fresh meat today and fresh fruit!" - because I used to say to her, you can't only eat toast.

Ivy taught me probably far more than I showed her.

I was moved by all the contributors in different ways.

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Malcolm and Pat on how their marriage has changed since she became his carer

You could see how Philip, who lost his wife, had gone down that black hole of grief and I do understand that from my experience of losing my daughter. It's a mindset, you have to do a lot to help yourself get back out.

I felt very emotional watching Pat, the carer, and her husband Malcolm because you could see (and she was honest about it) her life had been stripped away.

And with John I was amused that there's Peggy, this lady who's cantankerous and on her own but she's quite fit and happy to lead her own life. And I thought, well if that's what you want in your older age, why not? It suits her and that's it.

I hope that by highlighting aspects of old age that we collectively look at the culture of respecting the elderly in the UK.

In countries like France and Italy often you get four generations all living together. Older people have dignity. Their opinion is asked for and people listen to them. I think that many older people feel invisible in this country.

Maybe through some of the issues raised by When I Get Older we could all do a little bit extra in our community.

After all, we all individually know an Ivy, a grandparent or a neighbour where we might be able to bring something to their lives, if only to have a cup of tea and listen to them.

Gloria Hunniford gave this interview at a press screening for When I Get Older.

When I Get Older begins at 9pm on BBC One on Wednesday, 5 July. For further programme times please see the episode guide.

If you would like further information about the issues raised in When I Get Older, please visit the information and support page.

The series is part of the When I'm 65 season - a selection of programmes about issues facing the elderly. The season includes The Town That Never Retired, How To Live Beyond 100 and June Brown: Respect Your Elders.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Good to see that now the Baby Boomers are becoming the silver surfers generation, they are able to highlight the problems of becoming elderly. This is the natural order of things and not something to be ignored. Just as we all lost patience in our youth with the older generation, now it is out turn to experience how it feels to become surplass to requirements! Attitudes in the West are pitiful compared to the respect the elderly are given in Asian societies. We have a lot to learn. Welcome more programmes like this to change attitudes before it is too late for the rest of us!

  • Comment number 2.

    thoroughly enjoyed the program When I get Older, however, I do think, instead of B.B.C. presenters doing this on camera, it should be top members of the government, maybe if they had to live on £3 a day, they might get there act together for all O.A.Ps. As an O.A.P myself i feel saddened that this country cannot look after the people that have done there damnedest to make this country what it is today. We have to sit back and watch our good work be discarded by a modern generation, who don't care if Britain goes to the wall.

  • Comment number 3.

    Very enlightening programme ..obviously touched Gloria very much and it was good to see how such a change was brought to Ivy's life. The other stories were also heartrending but positive...as they say it takes all sorts to make our world. Will be watching the second programme to see how they all cope in the world of care homes, hopefully this will give an honest insight as to what happens. Using these particular presenters brings things closer to the public. Perhaps another series could be about what the respect between young and old.

  • Comment number 4.

    I was very moved by this programme and hope that the people involved felt it was good for them too!
    However and this is very trivial but I have to ask, where did Gloria Hunniford buy that fabulous multi coloured coat ? Sorry but I had to ask!

  • Comment number 5.

    Why doesn't Ivy just get a job - she's only sixty two!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I would like to know how Gloria Hunniford managed to get Ivy downsized to a smaller poperty in another area in 4days!!!! there is a system in place where you have to join the choice lettings scheme with your local council and bid for a property!!!! if you want to move into a different area you have to register with that council also...ive been trying to down size from a family home with 3 bedrooms for nearly 3yrs and despite getting in touch with local council..councellors...local mp and the social housing mp in parliment and have had no help at all from anyone!!! in fact i was told by the lettings dept in my council ''if I dont like what theyve got on their book go into the private sector''

  • Comment number 7.

    i realise now that ivy was in private accomodation..but how did she manage to get the deposit when she has no income and the references so quickly to be able to move in to her new property in 4days!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Great programme and both Gloria's blog & Tony's piece highlight the poor provision for the elderly in the UK.

    Both of my parents have passed away, but I still have elderly uncles who although their children are here in the UK would rather stay & die in retirement in the West Indies. Although they worked all their adult lives in the UK, paying tax, their worse fear is returning for treatment & finding themselves dying in a home or hospital here.

    We need to look at how we view the elderly? Too often they're seen as a burden to their families or the motorist stuck behind their slow moving car. In work they are seen as blocking the prospects of the young, too slow, not up to it. Even worse we pay care workers such poor wages that even when they are in "care", those tasked to look after them do not have the skills or time to look after them as we would wish.

    For the majority of us this same fate awaits & we need to address this now. Our mobile workforce means families are split, it must be made easier for the elderly to down-size & move to flats near their children. The elderly have to be targeted as families with young children, with visits from their local Health Visitor so people like Ivy who are struggling can be offered the help they need.

  • Comment number 9.

    Like dolliver I wondered how the housing was sorted so quickly. I also wonder about the lady winning the £1000 for the cruise she so badly wanted just when the cameras were there. Then there was no mention on how she would get funding approved for respite, find a suitable home and book a the place.

    I'm sorry but I think the programme mad light of the reality of carers trying to look after loved ones without the involvement of celebrities and TV coverage.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done what a fantastic glimpse into a different way of life for the 4 presenters. It moved me to tears on many occasions. I work in a hospital and it is a true reflection that often our older generation do not show how they are truly feeling, and therefore sometimes get overlooked. Documentaries like this highlight their needs and rights as human beings. I will have the tissues at the ready for tonight's programme .

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry, but as an 81 year old I found the programme a mawkish geriatric Jim''ll Fix it, with the now standard stage instruction "cry to camera." OK, some people have problems in old age but do we have to rely on ageing BBC personalities to solve problems? Three cheers for the old girl who watched wrestling and sent poor old Simpson to sleep!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I watched this proramme with great interest and when Tony Robinson stated that there must be another solution to going into residential care, I shouted at the TV Tony there is! I work in the community as an Occupational Therapist enabling individuals to maintain their lives within their own homes using assistive technology, it works I promise you and I am not alone in this endeavour there are many local authorities that offer this service commonly known as Telecare. Therefore Auntie please show these programmes but a more balanced argument would have shown older people there are other alternatives rather that giving up their cherished home and moving into a residential home. Thank you

  • Comment number 13.

    A most moving and enlightening film about dementia was made by Tony Harris in 1993. I hope the team who made these programmes were able to view Tony's film?
    Black Daisies for the Bride. John Simpson may appreciate the perception of dementia

  • Comment number 14.

    There a lot of people who are complaining about the programme. I hope that many, like me, will after having watched this great programme, find the time to befriend, help an elderly person, visit a relative or friend, help a lonely neighbour out, have fundraiser in order to raise money for minibuses etc. Yes, some should say it's the government's responsibiity to provide the funding, but they are not, so those of us who are able should make an effort to help these people. Well done to the celebs and the BBC for highlighting what many of us forget, don't think about or are unawar of.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thank you for taking time to produce the programme “When I get older” and raising awareness of the care for our elderly in care homes.


    Who am I? A nobody: just someone’s daughter; just someone’s mother; someone who has battled through the social services system; someone who has had to find a care home for her father; someone who wants to make a genuine difference for the greater good; someone who has used her mother’s legacy to create a site that allows the “silent elderly a voice and an opportunity to have an opinion”.

    Having supported my parents through the journey from independent living, to supported living and finally finding the right care home, I desperately wanted to ease the journey for those following in my footsteps. There is a plethora of information on the internet, vast numbers of challenging decisions to make and we, as a family, did not find the process easy or hugely supportive. I wanted something positive to come out of what was an incredibly tough time for us all so I have created a review website for family, friends and relatives of those in care homes to post an honest review of their experience.

    As you have all experienced the “inside story” you will know only too well what is required to make the home the best it can be. We need to allow the public to be able to make an informed choice about which is the “right care home” for their loved one. By encouraging people to post reviews we will build a picture of there the excellent care homes are and those that need to improve. The site will also provide the management of the home with a tool to assess where their strengths and weaknesses are and the management can then target training accurately and cost effectively. We all know that there is some fantastic practice out there but we also know that some homes can be very depressing.

    I have visited my father’s home (you’ll notice it is my father’s home) very regularly for two years now and I can see firsthand some of the challenges involved in creating a home that is of excellent standard. Like Don says “resignation/acceptance” is what one has to come to terms with. My father also comments that he has had to come to a place of acceptance – acceptance of his own demise, acceptance of his loss of independence, acceptance that he has Parkinson’s Disease, acceptance of the fact that he is coming to the end of his life, acceptance of his life and his regrets, acceptance.....
    My intention is that www.carehome-reviewer.com will go some way to helping change take place. I have a lot of hopes, another is that the website I have created will have been embraced, at least by the “man in the street”; reviews will have been posted and homes will know how good they are and when we’re old and possibly in need of a care home we will be able to make a much more informed choice based on others experiences.
    In the short time I have been working to promote and integrate the site with the organisations that purport to supporting older people, my experience thus far tells me that they are somewhat afraid to associate themselves with such a website that has truly been created with such a positive intention, to sit alongside them in the ether of the internet.
    I wanted to share with you all, who are supportive of our older, vulnerable people just how something positive can come from such a challenging time in one person’s life.
    More than that though, I ask that in your roles as presenters and celebrities that you share this knowledge with the communities that you were reporting for that they have a voice and can post a review letting others know how good the care home is that they know about and so building a picture nationwide of where the good homes are.

  • Comment number 16.

    A made for TV Drama may highlight the plight of the elderly but we should remember it was made for TV. As such it will be a bit far fetched, every old folks home was lovely, one ladies housing situation was solved in a flash, a rare night out at bingo produced a £1,000 + win for another lady in dire need of a holiday. We sympathised with everyones problems, realised that not all OAPs a wealthy, got a lump in our throats and shed the odd tear.
    I watched and thought it was good TV, but thats all. Everyone returned to their own lives and nothing of importance has changed.
    I'm no killjoy, just a realist. I'm also an OAP wondering if I live long enough what sort of home I will end up in.

  • Comment number 17.

    "WE ARE ALL LIVING LONGER".
    I am very upset about the phrase "WE ARE ALL LIVING LONGER". It is meaningless & upsetting. This phrase is regularly used by politicians and the like as a sensational soundbite, but it has no place on the BBC. The phrase is absolutely meaningless, and most upsetting to many people. My wife spent most of last year terminally ill. She knew that she would die at the age of 61. She got very upset watching Cameron and Clegg (and I think Cable) on the television defending the rise in women's pension age from 60, saying "WE ARE ALL LIVING LONGER". She didn't feel she was "living longer", whatever that means. Many people who are lying in bed terminally ill at a young age watch TV to ease their torment and suffering, and to hear such a meaningless soundbite is upsetting. Can you say to someone who is dying in their 20s, 30s, 40s etc .... "We are all living longer" - they aren't!. Can you say to parents of a terminally ill child..."We are all living longer" - they aren't.! And longer than what??
    Now, the BBC, in getting sensational publicity for the "When I'm 65" programmes, are using the same meaningless and upsetting phrase. Even John Simpson, a supposedly educated man, is saying this in the trailer. Can he explain why he thinks that EVERYONE is living longer?
    What you mean is: average life expectancy is rising year-on-year. Yes, I understand that, but maybe this doesn't hit home to most of us who might be "living longer" ... but longer than who? ... our neighbours? Our siblings? Our parents? Our uncles & aunts? It is absolutely meaningless; please, please remove this meaningless and upsetting phrase from the BBC!

  • Comment number 18.

    I saw nothing in either of the 2 programmes that I didn't know about, having had to place my 94 year old father into care about 5 years ago as he had dementia, and he died 2 years ago. My main comment is that all 4 of the retirement homes in the programme were purpose built modern homes and consequently had all the latest equipment etc and each room had a reasonable outlook from the window.
    Sadly this is not always the case as although at first my father was in a lovely caring home for assessment which was purpose built and run by the council it was not possible for him to stay there as it was being closed down. His next home was a converted house and he had a nice ensuite room at the back with no decent view, there were beautiful views from the lounge over the beach and sea but impossible for the residents to see as the windows were too high and a brick wall with a high hedge blocking the view. He then had to move to another home where his room was in the attic and the window too high to see out and also he didn't have his own toilet etc. Once his dementia was very bad we had to move him to what is called a "secure" home but again a converted old house, no ensuite, a window that looked onto another room about 4 yards away. Although he was well looked after regarding personal care, there appeared to be no kind of emotional support or activities as the staff were always so busy. The dining room wasn't particularly inviting with meals being very mediocre but he was here for just a few weeks only.
    However, if only there were more purpose built homes this would go a long way to helping us adapt to our new circumstances once we have to move to residential care.
    Maybe at some later date it would be possible for a programme to look at these non purpose built homes, as I am sure these far outnumber the modern ones.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thank you for showing a very thought provoking , no finger pointing look at getting older.
    as on a previous comment from Sue there is a alternate to residential /nursing care homes. IE supported care, and integrated community care, it would be great if these models of care could be looked at by the BBC to give a balanced viewpoint .

  • Comment number 20.

    I too enjoyed the films and was moved to tears on several occasions. However, I thought the important issue of isolation and loneliness in old age wasn't really covered. Many people, especially those in rural communities, rarely leave their homes and spend endless hours in their own company. Although some, like 83 year old Peggy Booth, don't seem to mind this, for many thousands life becomes a very solitary and sad experience. Isolation has other implications too for those in rural areas whose access to services (eg doctors, shops, banks, post office, etc) may be limited and ability to travel severely curtailed.

    I agree with Sue's earlier comment that alternatives to older people's care weren't covered - particularly the whole new area of telecare and telehelp, which enables old people to stay at home for longer. There are also many schemes, such as the Village Agents in Gloucestershire, that work to ensure isolation is minimised through personal contact, information and advice giving.

    I'm working on a media campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties of growing old in the countryside. We've developed films (including one of Glos Village Agents) that show examples of great schemes for rural older people, particularly with ref to housing and finance. We've also put together a film aimed at those thinking of retiring to the countryside to highlight the challenges which should be considered. Our website is www.overthehillcampaign.org.uk where all films - and other resources - may be accessed free of charge.

  • Comment number 21.

    I appreciate that the programmes were the response of celebrities to situations in which they found themselves and not designed to give information to the public, but I do nonetheless believe Gloria should have been briefed to ask Ivy whether she was receiving the Guarantee element of Pension Credit. This would have ensured that Ivy’s weekly income was topped up to £142.70 and, if she was not receiving it, Gloria could have helped her to apply or brought in somebody who could, such as a local authority benefits advisor. The programme offered a golden opportunity to show the nation the way in which Guarantee Credit provides a safety net for people over the age of 60, but, alas, it was missed.

  • Comment number 22.

    I am surprised that the programme has not commented on the tone of voice of most of the care-home staff which often sounds like they treat their inmates as patients (and children) rather than just speaking to them normally. I am pretty sure elderly people are aware of this are resigning to accepting it as the norm. However, I think it is part of the wider problem of treating the elderly inmates as inferiors rather than equals.

  • Comment number 23.

    Despite the feel good flourishes, these two wonderful programmes have highlighted the issues that should concern all of us who have our heads out of the sand. I do wish to point out that this is all about the 'disabled old', and as June Brown so well demonstrated, we can be 85 and still 'able'.

    For the first group however, their home can be their prison, even with regular calls, as was Peggy's with her poor mobility. They can be prey to all sorts of anxieties and mishaps while waiting for their next call.

    Group accommodation is the only practical solution, but not "institutions" as Tony Robinson let slip, thereby summarising the negative attitude that we have to most of our current care homes.

    To me, the important question is what are we going to do all day, in our group accommodation? We're not all bingo or sing-along fans...

    Hopefully with the power of the Internet we can have a less stultifying end of life experience despite physical disability. For those with dementia, well I agree with John Simpson: if I can't at least take part in an adult conversation, please don't keep me alive.

 

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