Virginia Barton

30 November 2018: Cherishing your Oldies


30 November 2018


You can skip the following if you are so minded, but by golly it merits re-reading:


All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


Did you learn this speech from As You Like It at school? Terrific isn’t it? Take your pick, I’m going for the lean and slipper’d pantaloon; the shrunk shank, specs and treble voice.


We aged ones have been called many things: dustys, crumblies, wrinklies, crinklies, old bats, etc. and many much ruder names I wouldn’t dream of typing. The scoffers forget that very likely they, too, will be an old trout one day.

I quite like being old, and I’ve always liked old people. Not unreservedly of course, there are some stinkers, but on the whole they are tolerant and interesting. With time and patience you can tease out little nuggets of wisdom; they’ve been there and done it – often to your surprise. They’ve traveled, been to war, endured suffering, disease, bereavement and have worked to dropping point. They have known disappointment and dashed hopes. Very much like us in fact.

If we have a modicum of wisdom ourselves, we can learn from old people; we have to ask, to listen, to take heed. You can learn more than how to make a Lancashire Hotpot or a sock on four knitting needles.


Lots of old people seem convinced that things were better in the Old Days. They seem old fashioned, and with age lose not only teeth, but both reticence and politeness. They often speak out boldly regardless of feelings:

“It wasn’t like that in my day. If you go about in that short skirt you must expect to have your bottom pinched, young woman. It’s a temptation. Men aren’t made of marble you know. As for those trousers – well really.”

“And when did you last go to church missie?”


“Don’t you go giving me that foreign muck, my stomach couldn’t stand it.”


Taking care of oldies is becoming a problem. There are just too many of us cluttering up the place. Even Japan, not known for relaxed laws on immigration, has had to unbend. It needs Carers for its ageing population.

If you’re lucky you may have daughters, or daughters-in-law ready to take on the burden of care, for burden it is. Anyone who has worked in an old people’s Home, or looked after a relative at home, knows what a restriction it is on personal freedom; how sheer exhaustion often overtakes you – or exasperation. Very much like looking after a baby!

As with infants our needs are simple: cleanliness, soft food, warmth, sleep.

And please a kindly pair of hands.





  • Mary says on: November 30, 2018 at 7:58 am


    I love to think that the young’uns, with their “shining morning faces” might learn a thing or two from the wrinklies “sans teeth…sans everything” but I have a suspicion that actually we’ve messed up this world and would do well to look to them and learn a thing or two.

    Thousands of Australian school children are protesting today for greater action on climate change.

    • Ginny says on: November 30, 2018 at 1:55 pm


      Never ever give way to despair Mary, this world is a grand and wonderful world and always will be. With blemishes.

      What we all have to do is our own little bit, each of us. Get the family to bike to work/school. Plant a tree, pick up a bit of rubbish, recycle what you can, eat sensibly not grossly. Then: stick up for the poor and downtrodden, protect a child, campaign for peace in one’s community. Many many people do this already, far more than the gloomsters would have us believe.

      Schumacher said it all in Small is Beautiful. Just don’t despair, it’s destructive and useless.

      Go plant some bulbs for the spring to cheer up your self and your neighbours!

  • Alice says on: November 30, 2018 at 10:04 am


    Dear Virginia,

    Yes, I did learn “The 7 ages of man” at school and yes I can still quote chunks of it, and often do to the confusion of my younglings at work. I always loved the “mewling and puking” part!!

    But the part about “cherishing our oldies” rings especially true to me. This Christmas my friend’s mum is coming to stay. It means putting my cats in “prison” (ie cattery) so her dogs can come with her; but it’s a small price to make sure she’s not alone at such an important time and can be part of the family.

    Since I lost my father, I often tell people to appreciate their elderly relatives because you don’t know what’s around the corner!

    • Ginny says on: November 30, 2018 at 10:08 am


      I am so impressed: the cats have to go on hols for the dogs’ sake Alice! Quite a sacrifice at Christmas.

      There is nothing like losing parent to bring one up short. Apart from anything else, you suddenly realise you have reached the top of the tree as it were! My mother used to say you never really grow up till your parents die. (Almost true: I still feel a silly teenager inside..) Ginny

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