Thursday, September 11, 2008

Putting a Face on the Vintage Dream

I'm suddenly feeling a weight. The other day whilst finding a car space around the back of the grocery store, I saw something that disturbed me deeply. It was about eleven in the morning, and as I drove through the alley way, there was a car blocking my path. Just as I was about to honk the horn, the full scene came into focus. Sitting in the passenger seat was an elderly lady of about seventyish. The car was stopped at the rear of the green grocers, and an elderly man was loading a box into the boot. Nothing odd about that. Then as I looked over a little further, I saw another man, who would have been 85 if he was a day, beautifully dressed in a three piece suit and fedora, leaning into the dumpster to retrieve what edible fruit and vegetables he could. Had this taken place in the inner city, it may not have disturbed me as much. But here I was in what could be considered a fairly affluent area, witnessing one of the desperate measures that pensioners in my country are resorting to to remain fed.

I often develop tunnel vision. Looking only at those things that dircetly concern me at any one time. (Let's be honest, most of us do.) There is no one in my life directly affected by the dire state of the pension here in Australia, and therefore it has never really cropped up on my radar. But after witnessing this my brain started to make connections. This gent stood out to me not only due to the activity he was engaged in, but also his attire. Now I don't wish to seem trite in making this connection, but all of these factors started me thinking about the modern obession with "Vintage". Our love of vintage clothing, homewares re released in pastel colours, Michael Buble remarking my favorite vintage songs, but in all this collecting I see very little regard for the few "Living Vintage" we have left. We (and I am speaking generically here) are all too happy to wear their clothes, dream of their (highly romanticised) lifestyles and watch popular films based on their lives, but would we put ourselves out to help drive them to a doctors appointment? We fight on Ebay for the perfect 50's party frock that was once their's, paying dollars in excess of their fortnightly income. It just doesn't seem right to me.

I am fortunate enough to have both sets of my grandparents living and I try to see them as often as possible. I have been spolit with treasures from their past both tangible and aneccdotally, and they live well for people of their age. But it seems that their is an alarming increase of elderly in this country not so fortunate. Now when I look at so many of the historical photos that delight and inspire me, I cannot help but wonder what fate has befallen these once sparkling individuals. They lived their lives under the impression that their services to their country in war time, or the life time of taxes they paid, would ensure their security it the future. I am only beginning to notice their plight on the evening news (perhaps my eyes have only just been opened), and I feel compelled to do something to make a difference, whether that be buying groceries for one of my local pensiors in need, or simply listening to a few stories now and again.

I realise that this topic is not terribly style and fashion related, ( but if you were in my head, you'd see how my brain makes these connections) but I just felt moved to have my say. Perhaps there is someone in your life or community who could benefit from a helping hand or a listening ear. Consider the joy you'll share treasuring "vintage" of this kind.


Mademoiselle Robot said...

I understand what you mean. It makes me want to cry when I see old people in this kind of situation. It is vey hard to find what to do to help. There is a charity here called Help the Aged, but it still is too indirect. Beautiful post, thank you!


a cat of impossible colour said...

This is an excellent post; thank you for saying what you've said. It's true, we're harking back to the past in so many superficial (not quite the right word, but you know what I mean) ways without paying tribute to the 'vintage' people who worked and fought for us to have what we have now ... and who are receiving very little in the way of thanks and recompense.

Kirby said...

What a beautiful eye opening post.

Anonymous said...

Strangely these are exactly the thoughts I've been having lately too. What are we doing for the elderly? As for seeing the people taking the fruit and veg, that may not necessarily be a money thing, perhaps its simply a more frugal way of thinking, or less wasteful. My mother has a friend who indulges in such behaviour and is always well pleased with himself when showing off the loot (ooh 2 cabbages and only a bit mouldy).

Heather said...

This is very sad, and this problem also exists here in the states, but here it's not just the elderly its everyone, our economy is terrible,not to mention health care is pretty wicked here also, (I dont know how your health care is over there) but the elderly can barley pay for thier prescriptions and alot of them go up to Canada to get their meds, and Mexico. That isnt right!!!

Bucca said...

Hey SKM check out this website:

Perhaps this would be a way to go forward.
Did you also know that the Howard Government has cancelled the old age pension and that some people already in their mid 40's were told they would no longer receive a pension when they retired!

Anonymous said...

This is such a great and thoughtful post. I've only got one grandmother left in a nursing home who has Alzheimer's Disease but from what I've seen and heard about the old-age pension, it's disgraceful. I don't understand why nothing is being done to help these people, especially considering our aging population. And even though I find current affair shows deplorable, I have to commend them for at least getting the word out and doing something about it, if only for a ratings blitz.

Anonymous said...

Great post darling.

I too feel just awful about our pensioners. When I first moved here, I was deeply shocked and disturbed when I saw very elderly people in the city alone, obviously frail, vulnerable and disadvantaged.
It still shocks me ( and thank goodness for that) and I've been saying for the past few years now that I would do some volunteer work etc but I've never known where to start and I've been plain lazy about it.

That we don't celebrate our elders or aging is an ugly cultural dynamic.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

MR: I think the best way to help is to do something personal, finding someone in your local community that needs help. Perhaps through the council, church or community centres.
A cat of impossible colour: Yes, it does smack of ingratitude. A very elderly lady I once knew used to receive a war widows pension. The government changed its ruling on eligibility and decided that although her husband died of injuries and disease contracted during the war, because he died years later, she was no longer eligible to receive anything. ouch.
Kirby: It makes you think huh.
Cybill: I had that thought too, I know that there is quite a movement for this kind of frugal living. Either way, at least it shocked me out of my apathy.
Heather: We are fortunate to have an excellent health care system here, well that is compared to America.
Bucca: Yes, I've seen that website and I considered joining, but they ask for a lot of information over the net with no security. It was a bit faceless I thought. I'm going to talk to the local Salvation Army and see if they can hook me up. As for the cancellation of the pension, well I have other thoughts on that for those of us who are younger. It actually doesn't bother me, as my generation has had much more financial education, superannuation and every chance to get our act together. I'd rather see that money go to those who have not had the capacity (mental or physical) to prepare themselves for old age rather than spreading the budget too thin. Those elderly currently receiving the (megre) pension, were always educated that the government would provide well for them in their old age as a reward for all their hard work, taxes and service. Talk about shafted.
Miss Karen: Yes, I abhor those current affairs shows too. They make me throw things at the TV so I just don't bother. I'm an ABC and SBS kinda girl.

M.E. said...

How utterly heartbreaking. I have to be honest - you made me cry right before I had class! The whole thing just reminded me of when I used to volunteer at a soup kitchen, and so many of the men who came in were older gents. It made me feel awful.

Bucca said...

SKM I don't watch TV (waste of time I think)I just did a google search to see what I could find.
Another idea is (there is a link to a list on the page I posted) we could all support the companies who are giving (where possible) for instance there are a lot of Bakers Delight bakeries giving away product to pensioners ( last 30 min of trading with pension cards) we could try putting pressure on non participating stores.

Bucca said...

I agree on the younger generation but what about the people who have reached their 40s only to discover they are no longer eligible! my father is eligible but my mother won't be and others her age.
Thankfully my mother won't have such worries but other women her age who have stayed home to raise their families etc are now left in the dark.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

M.E: Oh dear, sorry about that. But at least you are an active part of the solution, so well done.
Bucca: Thanks for all that info. I had heard that there are some companies trying to do what they can. I really feel like I want to do something that makes a personal connection so I'll let you know how that goes. Quite a few of my friends are in the same position as your mother too.

the likkle girl who wurves pwetty things said...

Dear Mama,
I hear you. When I was younger, I've always thought that my parents are "age-less" and will always be around. But as I got older, I know that that's not the case so I try to be as good as I can now, hoping my good behaviour will add a few years, to even out those that I might have taken away when I was a rebellious youth causing them heartaches.

On the subject of care for the aged, I think a lot needs to be done for the mentally-ill and homeless in this country too.

Hammie said...

My surviving two grandparents are much loved and still living independently in a groundfloor condo, in the same street where they have lived for 60 years. And I am blessed to say my sisters on that side of the world visit them regularly, and bring them to stay. and enjoy having them I might add.

I don't have the energy to commit to any regular volunteering (2 x Special Kids) but I do "Flag Days" for Depression Awareness, Cancer, Downes and The Carer's; and I always notice that the elderly folk NEVER pass without buying a daisy or daff or ribbon; however hard up they may seem. They always want to pass the time of day with you which is nice; and you can get a buzz out of giving them a lift and listening for a while.
(I won't even comment on the folks with the designer shopping bags who pretend they can't see you and pass)
The Carer's really get me, because even though I am one, I care for children. Whereas the majority of carer's are looking after the person they went on honeymoon with, who they now have to take to the toilet or worse. And they are so isolated. I see them at meetings and cannot contemplate how they cope with an absence of information technology; the thing the keeps me alive and out of the Stress Ward.

If you Vintage folk want to do something, How about starting a virtual swap shop that you have to make a cash donation (via paypal) to enter. And then donate that money to The Salvos. You could also organise a day out for your local pensioners group by doing a Vintage Fashion parade in your local RSL hall. Visit a few times and see if the ladies have any photos or stories about favourite outfits, take an Aural history, type it out and put it up on a board.
They say when people develop Aldziemers that they start to live in the "present" of the happiest time of their lives. It would be nice for you beautiful vintage fashion girls to recreate some of that beauty, for folk who are still in the fullness of their minds, and those who may not.

As for funding such an event?
Get some chutzpah and go out and recruit sponsorship. The local overpriced supermarket probably makes a bomb out of people who cannot drive their mobility scooters to the local hypermarket; so call on them and say you will put up a logo, or invite them to the event. I Do this All the Time.
I even do a little newsletter full of crap on my desktop, and include an "article" about the generous business.
You girls can do that on your blogs.

There you go.

Dressed and Pressed said...

SKM, what a moving post. It's the same all around the world at the moment, I fear. Sometimes it seems like there's no room for older people anymore in modern society. Which is really depressing.

For my day job I'm freelance web editor/writer and I'm actually doing a lot of work for Help the Aged here in the UK and they do a lot of campaigning around older people's issues as well as providing practical help.

I feel blessed everyday I come to work but it does bring me down that not only are there older people living this way now but also, this is what we have to look forward to if we don't balance the karma out somehow.

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Likkle Girl: So many problems...
Hammie: Wow thank you! what a treasure trove of ideas you are. That has given me a lot of food for thought. My mind is currently overwhelmed with ideas, plans and information. I think I have to write things down and start marking some cohesive plans so things actually happen.
Dressed and Pressed: Yep, Karma is a nasty thing to have bite you on the arse.

Hammie said...

your'e welcome. And you are talented enough to pull it off too.
Don't be afraid to let "A Current Acrap" (as my sisters call it) know if you do organise a fashion show. It will highlight the issue and may ispire other vintage fashionistas to do the same up and down the country.

Penny said...

oh that's really sad :(
i know how you feel. elderly people are treated with such disdain where i live, and i always stand up for them if i see anything happening, or i help them down a set of stairs etc.
i think i feel so strongly about it because all but one of my grandparents died before i was born, and my mums mum died when i was 7, so i just think people should be thankful their grandparents are still around.
i love going to see my boyfriends grandparents and talking to them endlessly about the things they used to do and wear!
im glad you wrote this because i think people need to see that the elderly can do a lot more for the community than just be victims of abuse and we can do a lot more for them.

esme and the lane way said...

What a good post (and I am glad to see it on a style blog). That is such a sad thing to happen, and I wish there were more practical things I could do to help – and I'd be worried about seeming patronising. I hate how older people can be treated so differently because of their age.
I am lucky to be part of a traditional, huge Italian family (via my fiance) and we see his mum at least once a fortnight, and everyone is close and in daily contact etc. It's so sad to think of the isolation that other people might have to face.

TheSundayBest said...

We have made the decision that we never want to die...but don't really know what this means. I only know this - my kids will put me on an ice flow, because by that time the youth will be so jacked in they won't see to the left or right of them.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful thoughtful post, thank you. In some ways, wearing vintage connects me more to the past and to our elders than anything. my grandparents are all gone now and our society certainly hides and isolates our old folks. But i often think, as i dig through the racks or get dressed in the morning, that these clothes probably belonged to someone who's died, whose mourning children cleared out her closet and sent off her favorite skirt or memory-laden sweater to the goodwill. are we appropriating ghosts?

workthatwardrobe said...

What a beautiful post. I am glad someone else notices these beautiful people. There is a couple who live near me. The woman seems a little "away with the fairies" but she has a wonderful smile. her man is always clutching her hand. They both walk with a stoop. V - e -r -y slowly. But the look of love in each other's eyes when they catch each other's eyes is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It always makes me shed a tear or two.