Baroness Margaret Thatcher passed away at the Ritz Hotel this week. I have felt a great sense of empathy for the manner in which the elderly Baroness was treated in the final years of her life. In short, I felt she was mistreated by the media and a number of people.
She gave much of the best years of her life to redeveloping England. Not all of us agreed with all of her decisions, but people forget that Thatcher was a working girl - she worked tirelessly to do the job she was elected for. The end result may not have been to everyone's liking, but her work ethic was beyond question. As a lady who was able to progress to the top of her career at a time when men ruled the world, she earned the name, "The Iron Lady" because she fought to win and never gave up.
As a young girl in the Thatcher era, I remember a country that was a better and happier place, despite the troubles we faced. We did not have the political correctness that plagues the country today. Politicians were mercilessly mocked by Spitting Image, the scurrilous satire programme that made the nation laugh. Comedy got away with many things that the current climate would never tolerate. Unlike her successors, Thatcher's government wasn't concerned about frivolity or appearance, they just tried to do their job. Later, we would see Blair's army of spinmeisters telling us what to think and what not to say.
The standard of living in her time was considerably better that it is today, and even when times were hard, I don't recall people complaining about the price of basic commodities as just about everyone does today. Even utility bills were not as extortionate as they are now. Whether or not the Thatcher government did it's job well is an altogether different question, and we could conduct endless historical post-mortems on what was right or wrong about it. In the end, though, the country was economically successful and the average person had more rights and freedoms.
These days, with various laws passed by subsequent governments, the public has very little freedom of expression. Thatcher did not indulge in media spin, nor did she attempt to suppress criticism. The Police were not involved in censoring people who tried to speak their mind. At the time, we took those basic rights for granted. Little did we know that, slowly, those rights would be eroded until they barely exist.
In her final years, the Daily Mail wrote about the lonely Christmas she would spend , while other media articles detailed how she was ignored by her children . This may or may not have been of great concern to her. We will never know her true feelings on the issue, as she would have been too tough to admit to loneliness.
It is rather curious that, despite a period of ill health, she died at the Ritz and not with her family. Following a spell in hospital, she felt she could not manage the stairs of her Belgravia home, and, instead of moving into a care home, or going to live with relative, she wisely opted for the Ritz - a place that is reputed to be a home from home where all her needs could be catered for. The choice reflects her fiercely independent and practical nature. Of course, not every pensioner has access to the Ritz.
During the last days of her life, she appears to have relied on her friends for company . At least she had friends to take care of her but, again, there is no mention of her family. The last mention of her daughter, Carol Thatcher, centred around the book detailing her mother's dementia. Some felt this undermined the dignity and privacy of the Iron Lady. Even worse, the media were debating her funeral while she was actually in good health. It was as if it were open season to mock a woman who was ill and unable to defend herself. A kind of "payback" for her past unpopular decisions.
Of course, Baroness Thatcher is an example of the sad situation faced by elderly people in the UK. It is as if the younger generation casts them aside when their usefulness has come to and end. Like her, the elders of today once worked tirelessly to build the England we now have.
The plight of today's elderly population is occasionally highlighted, but nothing ever seems to improve. Perceived as past their sell-by date - they are often forgotten by younger family members who are too busy being so ... busy.
A major report found that "Family breakdown is leaving a generation of elderly people isolated and without help [Daily Mail] . According to a survey by the Relatives and Residents Association [R&RA], at least 40,000 elderly people in care homes in England are living in isolation. About 13,000 are without "kith or kin" and have no contact by letter, calls or visits. These figures may well be an underestimate [ BBC ].
Is this what society has come to? Are our lives so self centred that we ignore our elders who gave us so much? Baroness Thatcher was one of England's hardest working girls. Yet, even after achieving greatness and being at the top of her profession, she was not treated with as much respect/care as she deserved in her final years.
What hope is there for the rest of our elderly folk? And what does their current plight say about the kind of people we have become? Kindness is free, it costs nothing to check on your elderly neighbours and relatives, have a cup of tea with them, ring them or send them cards/letters etc. After all, you can be sure that, if you don't, your time will be consumed by one pointless, 21st Century escapade or another.