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The old place: strength in staying or returning

Friends are facing the dilemma of whether to move from their tidy three-bed semi, with a garden, to a sheltered complex: The complex would give everything on one level, company of others in-house and the possibility of extra help in-house as needs become greater. Their problem is that she is becoming frailer, is variably muddled and having unpredictable falls. He is cognitively OK but has needed surgery for arthritis and finds himself tired after little exertion.

A move seems to have attractions, and other friends have found this works for them. The fear is that she will not be able to learn the new place, won’t feel at home and will be more, rather than less at risk.

The issue of ‘home’ – what constitutes it and how a sense of home might be fostered is pervasive at present.

A recent Guardian leader drew attention to some fascinating work in Italy and the North East of England: The Guardian view on local nostalgia: a potential community asset | Editorial | The Guardian

The essence is that some communities have been drained of a balanced population – young people moving away for the work and other opportunities in towns and cities, leaving behind those with less energy and initiative to maintain the old place and old routines. Maybe they lacked ambition and drive, but maybe they have carried and been guided by alternative priorities which have kept them close to family and their places.

The Guardian leader draws attention to schemes which are taking people back to the old place – with benefits for themselves and for their communities. Worth more than a passing thought.

Early days in the South Manchester Psycho-Geriatric took me to Chorlton – and especially the streets around Beech Road. I found old people living in the same house that they had been born in – or at least the same street. Some had never strayed as far as Manchester City Centre. Their needs were all sufficed by Chorlton schools, shops, church and pubs. When they developed dementia, there was great strength from having the local geography firmly ingrained in their nervous system.

I have fallen to re-reading Ronald Blythe (The View in Winter) – he describes the differing tribes of those who have lived in the village for ever, and those who have chosen to adopt it is ‘home’ in retirement – preferring its charm to the familiarity of their working years in urban utility.

For many of us ‘home’ will always be the house and street where we came into consciousness and then grew up. But most of us will move and have lives in other places where we become our adult selves – with career, family and so on. These new places become home for the time – and often for many more years than we actually spent in our original home – sometimes cemented by the attachment of our children to these new places.

Living within this range of homes in hearts and minds, is common to all of us. Perhaps more of an issue when your grasp of memory and now has faded or become unreliable


Each week we post a blog from David Jolley where he shares his personal views on relevant subjects.

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