Why Chris is #AgeProud
"I’ve used a lot of WhatsApp this year which has been a lifeline. I became a grandmother for the first time this year. It’s been so hard not being able to see my grandson, I worry he won’t remember me."
Chris, London, reflects on shielding during the first lockdown, becoming a grandmother for the first time and how community spirit can make you feel apart of something.
This year has hit me quite hard. I’m a very social person and I like to be with lots of people. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and was officially shielding until August. My mobility is limited and I can’t walk a long distance.
I was running a mother and toddler group dealing with young people and babies which gave me a different outlook on life. I’d also found a local Golden Years group for over 60s and had started to really enjoy that. All of that has stopped now so it’s been strange; I do feel less connected to my community without these groups.
I’m lucky that I have family and good friends. I’ve used a lot of WhatsApp this year which has been a lifeline. I became a grandmother for the first time this year. It’s been so hard not being able to see my grandson, I worry he won’t remember me.
I was married and became a mum at 19 in the early 1970s, moving to Barking and Dagenham. The marriage didn’t last and I was a single parent for most of that decade. But I don’t remember ever worrying about making ends meet. You always felt like your friends would feed you if you couldn’t feed yourself, and I got a council flat easily. I look back now and realise how lucky we were.
I had married friends and single friends, I didn’t feel any stigma back then. I got part-time work easily as a childminder and in shops to work around when my son was at school. There were always other mums who would watch him or take him overnight too.
It was still really only a few years from the war. There was still that type of community. We used to all spend Christmas together. Back then if anybody was ill the local shopkeeper would tell you. Everybody knew each other and nobody was ever left on their own ever. People in Barking and Dagenham have never had much, but they always had each other.
I remarried and moved to this house in the early 1980s and had two more children. I did miss living in a block of flats as you saw more people but there was a great community of mums here at the time. All of our kids grew up together. I started the mother and toddler group then. Some of us are still friends now, even though I’m 20 years older than them.
We bought our home under the Right to Buy scheme. It’s worked for us, although we were always under the understanding money would go towards building new houses. That never happened and I feel like we were lied to.
In the past my children could have had a council house as a starting block but it’s not there now and renting is extortionate. It makes things feel less equal. And it creates envy. I worry what the next few years have in store for young people.
I’m hoping the pandemic might make people less selfish, and less focused on money.
I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my grandson, I waited so long for a grandchild it’s hard that I can’t get my hands on him!
I love experiencing new things, travelling and seeing new places and I’m hoping next year we’ll be able to go back to some of that. See if we can pick up to the mother and toddler group too.