Cynthia’s Story – Elderly & Independent In England

“I read in the paper the other day that if you drink three cups of tea a day you live statistically longer” – Cynthia, 2009.

 

Documentary Photographer, Filmmaker and Illustrator Tom Warland is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From his project ‘Living In the Third Age‘.  To see Tom’s gallery of works click on any image.

 

Over the years a collection of owls in various forms has been acquired covering any free surfaces, especially in her Bedroom and Living Room.

Over the years a collection of owls in various forms has been acquired covering any free surfaces, especially in her Bedroom and Living Room.

 

In her old age, Cynthia continues to maintain her home to a reasonably presentable standard, determined not to become useless or a burden in her advanced years.

In her old age, Cynthia continues to maintain her home to a reasonably presentable standard, determined not to become useless or a burden in her advanced years.

 

Cynthia has lived for 92 years in the same house in the outer London borough of Brent that has been rented by her family for over hundred years. This part of Brent has seen a huge rise in crime over the last forty years, and she has been burgled five times within recent years, yet she still refuses to move away into sheltered accommodation.

 

Fetching from her Larder in the living-room before starting to cook her lunch.

Fetching from her Larder in the living-room before starting to cook her lunch.

 

Cynthia is a fully independent woman, who cooks the majority of her meals from scratch – sticking to the traditional red meat, potatoes, boiled vegetables and gravy – for a daily lunch, and takes it sitting in front of the window overlooking the bird table. With two nearby convenience stores, she can collect the majority of the food she needs easily, only asking her nephew or neighbor to help with the heavier items such as bags of potatoes every few weeks.

 

The every day meal of meat (usualy a lamb steak, pork chop or 1/4 pound Rump or Sirloin steak), boiled potatoes and Savoy Cabbage with gravy made from a mix of the fat from the meat and Bisto granules.

The every day meal of meat (usualy a lamb steak, pork chop or 1/4 pound Rump or Sirloin steak), boiled potatoes and Savoy Cabbage with gravy made from a mix of the fat from the meat and Bisto granules.

 

Preparations for lunch starts around 10am with the pealing of 2 small King Edward potatoes (used over 2 days) to be boiled and is finished in time to be eaten around 1pm.

Preparations for lunch starts around 10am with the pealing of 2 small King Edward potatoes (used over 2 days) to be boiled and is finished in time to be eaten around 1pm.

 

The Kitchen is small, cramped and basic with the longest wall taken up by the sink and cooker, and the facing wall housing a collapsible worktop just big enough to hold her kettle and teapot.

The Kitchen is small, cramped and basic with the longest wall taken up by the sink and cooker, and the facing wall housing a collapsible worktop just big enough to hold her kettle and teapot.

 

"Made in England 1952"

“Made in England 1952”

 

Indoor drying line used on "Washing Mondays" hanging over the kitchen sink.

Indoor drying line used on “Washing Mondays” hanging over the kitchen sink.

 

As the youngest of five siblings, her life has been full and active. Cynthia left school at the age of thirteen to take over the day to day running of the home when her mother became ill and eventually bed-bound.

 

Cynthia continuing with her morning routine of drinking tea, preparing lunch and BBC Radio 4's "The Archers".

Cynthia continuing with her morning routine of drinking tea, preparing lunch and BBC Radio 4’s “The Archers”.

 

At the age of 90, Cynthia lives her whole life downstairs, only venturing upstairs to use the bathroom.

At the age of 90, Cynthia lives her whole life downstairs, only venturing upstairs to use the bathroom.

 

Cynthia and her four brothers have all been skilled with their hands; her eldest brother – Frank, was a professional golfer (making his clubs by hand), the other three, John, Nelson and Robert were all in engineering, as was her father, who worked at the East London Dry Plate Company. Cynthia joined this family of men with steady hands by working as a nurse with blood donor vans during the 1960s and 70s. She continued to ride her motorbike until she was well into her eighties. Now into her 90s, she maintains her love for murder novels, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and television detective dramas such as “Inspector Morse”.

 

Right-hand corner of the electric fire, closest to her favourite chair

Right-hand corner of the electric fire, closest to her favorite chair

 

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Cynthia's love for Owls continues to watching the garden birds at her bird-table whilst she prepares and eats her lunch. This however does not include magpies and pigeons as she has strong feelings against these particular species.

Cynthia’s love for Owls continues to watching the garden birds at her bird-table whilst she prepares and eats her lunch. This however does not include magpies and pigeons as she has strong feelings against these particular species.

 

Mains socket for TV, Sky box, VHS, and DVD player

Mains socket for TV, Sky box, VHS, and DVD player

 

This work is a study of a remarkable woman living a life that is not unusual. Elderly independence is often overshadowed in the media, and therefore our conceptions of society are fueled by tales of the elderly unable to cope on their own, having to rely on services such as “meals on wheels” and home help if they wish to stay in their own home. These images of Cynthia prove that this is often not the case.

This photographic documentary is not intended to be a political standpoint on the issue of the way the elderly are considered in British society. It is simply a study of Cynthia’s life, and to show that there is hope for independence when you’re living in your Third Age.

 

See also:

Warland

Land Of Liberty

By Tom Warland

 


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