The first episode of Silverville was, in a human sense, somewhat sanitised in that we met some of the residents of Lovat Fields and it was all rather jolly. Elderly ladies and gentlemen of the scrubbed, pink-faced variety talked happily about their lives in the retirement village in Milton Keynes, and it was an “ah bless” type film.
Last night’s episode however went somewhat deeper, and stories of real tragedy and sorrow were introduced, as well as somewhat happier ones.
Of the tragic and sad stories, that of Jan and Ken were among the saddest. Ken, who was 59, had had a massive stroke some years before moving into Lovat Fields, and his wife Jan, 56, felt unable to care for him any longer. However, behind that was a tale of how Ken’s stroke had changed him and his relationship with his wife beyond repair.
The decision to move Ken into Lovat Fields was made – and one got the impression that it wasn’t necessarily with his approval – so that he would be more independent. He relied a great deal on Jan and from the subtext of what Jan had to say about the situation, he took her for granted. She talked of how he was utterly selfish now and how he’d changed entirely from the man she married.
Jan talked of still loving Ken, but to be honest, I think she felt honour bound to say so. I suspect that she felt only that he was a burden and she longed to be free of him. That’s in no way a judgement on her; unless you’ve lived with someone who’s so debilitated and changed, you can’t appreciate how hard it is, so I felt for Jan and didn’t judge her negatively for it. However, it was very hard not to feel more sympathy for Ken…
Here was a man who clearly didn’t want to be in Lovat Fields, he wanted to be at home. He wanted to be with Jan and during the transition from home to the retirement village, he cried a great deal and spoke of his loneliness. A terribly sad moment came when, as Jan was visiting, the subject of her possibly meeting someone else was raised, and despite her assurances to Ken that she hadn’t met someone else – yet – he wept at the prospect.
Ken must feel that the stroke has robbed him of everything; his former active and sporty lifestyle, his wife, his home and his independence. All gone in a shockingly short time and he knew that moving to Lovat Fields was the official recognition of all that he’d lost.
In happier scenes, we met Connie who was 70 but doesn’t look a day over 50. I wish I could have whatever it is she’s been eating or drinking that makes her look so much younger than she is! I was genuinely shocked when I heard that this lovely lady was 70. And in Lovat Fields, she was dating and falling for Peter, who was 72 and also looked to be in his fifties.
We also met Bert who was 90 and Rose who was 73, just as they announced their engagement. And what a lovely couple they are. Rose is a quiet, unassuming lady and Bert is charming and gracious. However, as the reality of her engagement began to set in, Rose started to feel that she was being in some way disloyal to the memory of her husband, and she began to have doubts about marrying Bert.
The thing that struck me most forcefully in this week’s episode is how easy it is to forget that elderly people still have the maelstrom of emotions that we younger people do. I don’t know quite why it is that we tend to think of elderly people as we do very young kids. We think of them in many ways as a tabula rasa, but of course, they’ve had decades of life experiences which affect them just as much now as they did when they were 30 or 40.
This episode was far better than the first in that it forewent the cheery façades and showed us the real human stories that explained how some of the residents ended up there, and for some, it wasn’t really a choice while for others, it most definitely was and one that they’re happy about.
If you missed this week’s episode, you can catch it here on BBC iPlayer, and if you enjoyed last week’s, you’ll enjoy this week’s more.