Produced by the Open University, last night’s episode was the first of six in which the lives and loves of a retirement community in Milton Keynes were laid bare. And it seems, many of the residents wanted to be, in a literal sense.
Amelia, who’s 83 bemoaned the lack of a sex life in her advancing years – but with considerable good humour – and Lawrence, 87, just wanted someone he could look after, as in, someone to make cups of tea for and watch a bit of telly with.
Not such a big ask is it?
I was somewhat surprised I suppose by the continued interest in a sex life among the residents of Lovat Fields, but I guess that’s just my own pre-conceptions at work as to what old age is about. Lots of the women there were asked about when they last had sex and if they would like a sex life, and for the majority of them, it’d been a pretty long time, and yes, they would like a sex life again. Only one lady said she’d “run” if she found a man who wanted to make love to her again.
However, sex and talk of French knickers made out of parachutes aside, one of the residents, Peter, was an especially lonely and sad man. His wife had died a number of years before and he kept her ashes and some of her most treasured possessions in a display case. The filmmaker, Liz Allen, asked if he thought it “macabre” to keep Vera’s ashes, but he responded that having them in his home made him feel closer to her.
Peter had lung cancer and during filming, he had surgery to remove some of the diseased lung. He returned to Lovat Fields afterwards, but having no children, and it would seem, no immediate family of any sort, he felt that life wasn’t necessarily worth living. As the closing credits rolled, we read that he died last year, so one can only hope that he was reunited with his beloved Vera after all.
An infinitely cheerier segment of the show was when Amelia went on a date with Lawrence, but she was very nervous about it beforehand. However, soon into their date, they were talking happily and all seemed to be going well. However, Lawrence wasn’t prepared to be exclusive with Amelia – he liked another lady resident too – so she got angry about that and jealousy set in.
She’d seen Lawrence sitting with another lady and she didn’t like it one bit, so she told him not to mess her about and then she added, with a tinge of remorse, “I haven’t seen him since.”
The overriding message from this show for me was that advancing age doesn’t change many of life’s fundamental issues, it just makes it perhaps a little more imperative to get on with them.
I really liked Lawrence and Amelia; they’re witty, gregarious, kind and despite having endured hardships and grief, there’s not a hint of misery about them. Poor Peter though was of course very ill and very unhappy, so he wasn’t quite so merry, understandably.
If I have any criticism of the show itself, it would be that whoever was doing the talking behind the camera – and I’m assuming it was Liz Allen, though I could be wrong – often fell into that trap of talking to people of advanced years as though they’re 3 years old. In one scene, she asked, “So is he your boyfriend then?” Innocuous enough in writing, but the tone with which the question was asked was just like the tone one would use to ask that of a little girl.
It’s always been a pet peeve of mine that one; I used to work in a nursing home and I recall very well how many people would use that tone to the residents, especially those who were hard of hearing.
But nonetheless, I didn’t doubt Liz Allen’s – if that’s who was interviewing – sincerity and evident fondness for the Lovat Field’s residents, and I’ll be watching next week to see who else is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered and what else is going on in the lives and loves of these charming folk.