It was heart-warming to read of the two cousins in the Cambrian News who are fundraising to help create new therapeutic gardens at Prince Philip Hospital. Their grandfather would benefit from such gardens. When travelling on the bus from Aberystwyth an elderly lady next to me started telling how she’d just been to visit her husband in Hafan y Waun. She told me he has dementia and how she travels on two buses there from Aberporth to see him, a heck of an undertaking. 

My own mother had dementia and needed to be in a nursing home. The staff was fantastic and she was well cared for. But she had been a keen gardener all her life. The first thing she would do every morning is go out to feed the birds, simply the leftover breadcrumbs in those days, and in nice weather she would check what was in flower and pick some to create flower arrangements. It has struck me that during her last five years she was denied that basic freedom. Going into the garden was only with a staff member as part of an ‘activity’. 

The threatened closure of Tregerddan Residential Home in Bow Street follows the loss of Bodlondeb in Penparcau, Abermad outside Llanfarian and the wonderful Day Centre where Tesco now stands. When these facilities were built, they were deemed modern and suitable. They were also built in many different communities. There is a consultation on Ceredigion County Council’s website regarding Tregerddan. The preamble consists of nothing but praise for the council’s preferred option and it is clear that this closure is on the cards, no matter what people write in the consultation boxes. 

Modern life throws up all sorts of problems and care of the elderly is one of them. Racing rapidly into the ‘old’ bracket myself, I can’t help thinking about what I would consider a fulfilling but safe place to live. While for many care at home is the most desirable option, it isn’t always possible. Family members may not be able to offer the care needed, they may live far away, in another country even like my own mother, they may be busy working or looking after children. Many caregivers are elderly themselves caring for a spouse until they can’t manage any longer.  

So care homes have a place in our society. But do they need to be large and far away from visiting relatives and friends? Should the elderly be seen as a problem as so often portrayed in the national media? Should this ‘problem’ be solved by bureaucrats for whom rules, regulations and finances count as the most important aspects?  

There is a Community Interest Company that I think is an inspiring example of how care can be delivered in a more meaningful way. This company is Clynfyw Care Farm in North Pembrokeshire. Here the residents, who have learning disabilities and/or autism are fully occupied in farm work while receiving amazing care. 

In these wonderful rural counties, how many elderly people have been farmers, working their whole lives outdoors? What does it feel like for them to be reliant on care workers for their necessary dose of fresh air, for feeling soil between their fingers, for picking fruit, vegetables, collecting eggs or touching animals? Wouldn’t it be amazing if more farms like Clynfyw were set up and managed for elderly people?  

However wonderful the staff, finishing a life mainly behind locked doors is not dignified, nor desirable, especially far away from loved ones. The face of that poor lonely woman on the bus haunts me.