The Narrative, Final Edit

May 15, 2009

Sid at 71

9,697,800 people in the UK are aged 65 and over.
2.5 million pensioners (over 1 in 5) live below the poverty line.
9%  of people aged 65 and over in the UK feel they are cut off from society.
12% of older people feel trapped in their own homes.

(Statistics from various government sources – all to be found on the Help the Aged website)

If you read the above statistics published by the charity Help the Aged, the impression that we get of becoming older is that it is a negative experience.  Pensioners are poor, isolated, trapped, discriminated against.  Whilst there is no doubt that this is the experience of some, it is not that of all.

Look again at the statistics:  if 1 in 5 live below the poverty line, then 4 do not.
If 9% feel cut off from society, 91% do not.

This 91% might as well be invisible as far as the media is concerned; they are ignored rather than celebrated.

Sid is 71 and one of the 91%.  He is part of the invisible majority  A retired engineer (a toolmaker to be precise), he also served in the RAF reserves, did a stint as a commercial photographer, and for fifty years has been a committed naturist.  He leads a quiet life, but not a dull one.

Unlike the stereotype so often presented by the media, he is neither vulnerable, nor sad.  Sid is passionate about motorbikes (his pride and joy, is a 1966 Triumph Bonneville), he holidays in a VW Campervan, walks Dartmoor and Exmoor with a naturist walking group and is a member of The Motorcycle Nudes.  He works out to his Coronation Street exercise video three or four times a week; for an older man, he has strong thighs!

Married for 49 years (when the project was made), he and his wife spend much of the time ‘doing their own thing’.

This is a photographic narrative about one septuagenarian who although conscious of his increasing years (and expanding waistline), chooses to engage with the world in his own (mostly naked) way.

He is old, but happy.  There is an alternative to those statistics!

“The fitness teacher used to be the barmaid in Coronation Street. The DVD lasts an hour; I do it three or four times a week.”

“The fitness teacher used to be the barmaid in Coronation Street. The DVD lasts an hour; I do it three or four times a week.”

“I do most of the talking. Half of the time Norma doesn't really listen.”

“I do most of the talking. Half of the time Norma doesn't really listen.”

“I was 17 the first time I sunbathed in the nude; I've been a proper naturist for 50 years.”

“I was 17 the first time I sunbathed in the nude; I've been a proper naturist for 50 years.”

 "My skin's pretty tough.  I spend most of my time outside, even in the winter.”

"My skin's pretty tough. I spend most of my time outside, even in the winter.”

  “I've three motorbikes and a moped. My favourite is the 1969 Bonneville. She's a beauty.”

“I've three motorbikes and a moped. My favourite is the 1969 Bonneville. She's a beauty.”

“We've been celibate since 1976. We don't even touch anymore.”

“We stopped sleeping together in 1976.”

 “It's Norma's conservatory really; she paid for it.”

“It's Norma's conservatory really; she paid for it.”

“I go to camper van rallies. I meet up with friends from the VW forum.”

“I go to camper van rallies. I meet up with friends from the VW forum.”

“Norma made the rose in a metalwork class.  It's all rusty now.”

“Norma made the rose in a metalwork class. It's all rusty now.”

 “I still work quite hard, fixing things and digging the garden. I don't overdo it though.  I make sure I rest.”

“I still work quite hard, fixing things and digging the garden. I don't overdo it though. I make sure I rest.”

“I go dancing 2 or 3 times a week. Rachel is a new partner.  She's good fun, like a daughter.”

“I go dancing 2 or 3 times a week. Rachel is a new partner. She's good fun, like a daughter.”

“I like simple things.  Lunch is often a sandwich.  I really love cheese, but have cut down to try to lose weight.”

“I like simple things. Lunch is often a sandwich. I really love cheese, but have cut down to try to lose weight.”

“I love being out.  I walk with a group.  It's all blokes, but women and textiles are welcome.”

“I love being out. I walk with a group. It's all blokes, but women and textiles are welcome.”

Research:

Help the Aged – http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb

Saga – http://www.saga.co.uk/

Abstract from research into the presentation of older people and the way this affects their treatment by Alison Parsons, Nursing Unit Manager, St Vincents Hospital, Sydney –
http:www.ciap.health.nsw.gov.au/hospolic/stvincents/1993/a06.html

Articles:

‘Joan Bakewell to put a spring in the step of the elderly.’  Marie Woolf, The Sunday Times,
November 9, 2008 – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5114845.ece

‘Ageism, pensions and the end of high heels – it’s time I spoke up.’   Joan Bakewell, The Guardian,
November 10, 2008 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/10/ageism-joan-bakewell-voice-of-older-people-pensions

Michele Hanson, The Guardian, November 11, 2008
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/nov/11/features-features

Contemporary photographers who have made work about older people:

Georgina Ravenscroft, ‘a prime passage’

Julian Germain, ‘For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness’

Larry Sultan, ‘Pictures from Home’

Nicholas Nixon, ‘Pictures of People’

Steven Tynan, ‘Robber’

Peter Granser, ‘Sun City’

Mario Giacomelli – ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Death will come and it will have your eyes’

Naomi Harris – ‘Haddon Hall’ – http://www.naomiharris.com/

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