Melrose place and retirement homes - what's the difference?

I used to visit my grandmother in a retirement home in which the people seemed so miserable. But to me it seemed like Melrose Place in the making. They had food, a room, television, music, the other sex, some bus trips, a little spending money each week and no responsibilities. If you shifted the 80-year-olds out and put, say, 20-year-old snowboarders/surfers in, what would make the younger people miserable? Will old people’s homes rock by 2040? That’s what I really want to know. Why wouldn’t they?

It’s all in the lighting. There are long shadows at twilight.

Will sixties values mean geriatric homes become paradisical communes in the 21st century? That’s my question rephrased. It’s not a hard question. Admittedly it’s not an exciting inquiry into the contents of boils, but the disinterest of 10,000 people makes me curious. I feel like an anthropologist gathering data on internet denizens. Maybe I’ll start saying things like “individuality and circuited interconnection are at once inimical notions”.

Will Rage Against the Machine become Rage Against the Dying of the Light? Will they give free concerts in rest homes filled with 80-year-old anti-aging groupies? Yes or no?

G.Nome, my college friends and I used to talk about this in the dorms - we imagined being old people, wheeling ourselves around, pulling pranks on the administrators, and having old-people-sex and listening to rock and roll. I think the key is to get into the same home where your friends are.

Well, people probably talked about it in the dorms of the 1920s too, but it’s not like that yet. Rest homes are definitely not like that.

Fair enough, I’ll give this a burl. What you see now for older people is the start of a really huge and diverse industry which will expand as populations in the west age.

Rest homes are different from retirement villages which are different from assisted living.

At one extreme you can expect to see older people living active independent lives for longer. If people have superannuation and home-help type services are affordable you will see older people moving into smaller dwellings and having a pretty good time with each other. Pretty Melrose Place-y, up to the hair dye, but not including the bonking on bin night in the fountain. There are already burgeoning industries for these types, from tourism to the so-called University of the Third Age, a higher education system for older people. Unlike my grandparents’ experience these people have an option between isolation at home and a lingering, dependent death.

At the other extreme you will still see people who have lost it physically and/ or mentally. At present these people are in rest homes and palliative care. They are waiting to die and need specialised care to do it with much dignity. At present medicine’s ability to prolong life outstrips its ability to prolong quality of life. Serious inroads into arthritis seem reasonably close, but I think dementia’s going to be with us a while.


And let’s not forget: Have you ever seen anyone play shuffleboard on Melrose Place?

VISITING GRANDMOTHER 101 AND 102: I believe that when the carers and the cared-for in geriatric homes both like the same music (i.e. the generations are merged) the cared for will surely be a lot happier. The misery I saw in those places seemed to stem from an inability of resthome staff to relate to the aged as people who were young a breathtakingly short time ago. When I was younger I didn’t think of my life as having a beginning or an end - time was just not relevant in that way. Now I see anyone’s life in terms of a three-day weekend - that short and ideally as well-planned and lived as those interludes can be. We are all geriatrics just a bit further down the road and from the “perspective of eternity” as they say, we are all the same age anyway.