I bought a Boots meal deal (I had a 30p off voucher) and looked for a bench to sit on in Victoria Centre, Nottingham as it was very chilly outside. This (finding a bench inside) was a struggle. All of them were taken already. Swarmed by annoying teenagers or Mums with their prams, toddlers and their toys everywhere? No. The benches were full of pensioners. After finally finding a spot I eavesdropped on some of their gossip whilst eating my sandwiches – gossip about what Janet at number 12 had been saying this week and other conversations about what various family members were up to.
When I finished my lunch, as some kind of involuntary reaction I took my phone out of my bag and despite having no new notifications, had a scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds to see what was happening in the world. Then I decided to save my battery and people watch on this busy bench in the shopping centre. People came and went, some sit down for a few minutes of rest, others are with their friends and chat and then there are the quiet ones. Like me, they seem to sit in silence, quite content with their own company. There are wives that are dropped off by their husbands that are then picked up again 20 minutes later to get the bus back home. It was all very interesting.
Anyway, it got me thinking. Maybe this is how 60+ socialising has worked for many years – go to town, do the shopping and stop off at one of the benches to see who’s around for a chat. I remember my great auntie Mary had a favourite set of benches in my town and we’d always go to the benches to see if she was there. Maybe it’s a weekly Friday meetup, but to me it seemed like a drop in kind of thing, that people just rocked up, had a natter and a sandwich (prawn mayonnaise is a popular choice).
With all the advances in technology I can see this elderly bench culture (am I allowed to call it that?) disappearing or at least changing. Just as when I’d finished my sandwich I checked my phone, in 5/10 years time all of the pensioners on those benches will most likely be smartphone smart. Maybe they’ll meet on the benches to ask their friends for help on the latest app.
But then again, who needs to leave the house to ask friends for help with the handy “Ask your friend for help” buttons that use Facebook to get your friends to give you a clue or send you extra lives. Maybe it’s a little drastic but very soon people, especially the elderly, will not have reasons to leave their houses except for weddings and funerals. Using the internet and our phones we are able to do online banking, order groceries from the supermarket, send birthday cards through sites like Moonpig, print photos, buy clothes and even online learning is becoming a big market now with online courses readily available. Not to mention all the fun you can have at home with thousands of movies and TV series on LoveFilm, new apps everyday on the Play Store, exercise videos on Youtube and many board and card games have been converted to online platforms. Especially in the bitter cold months, who will want to go outside to sit on a hard bench chatting when you can do it using Skype on your tablet from your comfy bed?
Maybe I am being cynical as I don’t like going outside in winter and can quite easily find things to do at home and stay indoors for a few days at a time (I’m currently on episode 19/22 of S02 of Scandal). Maybe what I’m trying to say is that in 40 years time (maybe 45 if they raise the retirement age) I will definitely be found in my bed as a Candy Crushing Nan.