Tuesday, 14 October 2014

No country for old men

A recent report by the International Longevity Centre has highlighted the growing problem of social isolation amongst older men living alone. Men seem to find it more difficult to make and maintain social contacts than women, and many will have largely depended on their wives or partners for their social life and found themselves cut adrift when they died or divorced. The report predicts that the number of older men living alone in England will increase by 65% by 2030.

You might have thought pubs had a role to play in tackling this issue, but in fact things have gone the other way. A generation ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see groups of old codgers in pubs, maybe playing a game of crib or doms, or just chewing the fat while nursing a pint of mild. But that wasn’t seen as a very lucrative trade, nor something that conveyed the right image. So many pubs were remodelled to appeal to a younger audience, with loud music, TV screens and uncomfortable posing tables, while others went all-out for the dining trade and made it clear that social drinkers, especially slow-spending ones, weren’t really welcome.

Then the smoking ban came along and made even more customers feel unwelcome. As one commenter often reminds us, older people will be particularly resistant to being forced out into the cold and rain, while non-smokers may have found the pub less appealing once their smoking friends had stopped going. Large numbers of pubs have closed entirely, while others have taken the commercial decision to stop opening on weekday lunchtimes, which for many pensioners was their favoured drinking session. And the remorseless drip-drip of anti-drink propaganda has created something of a stigma about pubgoing that wasn’t there twenty or thirty years ago.

Wetherspoon’s are often mocked for the number of customers using mobility scooters, but surely this should be seen as a positive sign that they are actually providing a social function for older people. I was recently in a branch in a fairly workaday town in the South-East where this was very noticeable. But Spoons tend in general to be located in town centres, so don’t act as local pubs near to where people live, and they’re also not noted for seating comfort.

The industry often claims that pubs play a vital role in communities, and in the best cases that’s undoubtedly true. But maybe they need to live up to the hype and take a long, hard look at making their venues more pensioner-friendly. After all, it’s the only growing section of the potential drinking population. And the argument that it’s encouraging excessive drinking amongst the elderly doesn’t really stand up, as most will only have a pint or two anyway.

22 comments:

  1. You have the wealthiest generation of old codgers the country has ever had. That gives them more choice than any set of old timers that has ever preceded them. Maybe they have better places to go than ropey pubs? Like bowling or dogging or something.

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  2. Social isolation isn't necessarily linked with poverty, though.

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  3. I want to see the evidence. We must do an experiment. Take two 70 year old, old timers. Give one enough money for a 22 year old thai bride, give the other the money for a pint of mild. Stand back and measure the loneliness.

    I'll find the old geezers, you stump up the readies what with being loaded and all that.

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  4. I reckon the spoons could increase "seating comfort" with a few scatter cushions.

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  5. Having looked into it, Thai brides aren't without problems.

    At my age, I'll settle for a pint of mild. It isn't going to steal all your money and shag the young buck next door.

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  6. @Stringers - but you need bench seating to have scatter cushions in the first place

    @Tandleman - does E. know you've been looking into it?

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  7. The Blocked Dwarf14 October 2014 at 12:46

    Nothing more needs to be said about the Smoking Verbot...beyond it is an obscenity and until Pubs want my custom again, they can all go to the wall for all I care...with or without free Wifi.

    Fantastic photo there Cumudgeon, fascinating. See how you could still tell someone's social class and probably their life's history just from their clothes -as once Sherlock Holmes could. The guy on the left looks like his jacket went out of fashion about the time he was besieging Sevastopol, the Old boy far right was obviously the School Master and an educated man. You can tell a lot just from who is wearing what hat or cap.

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  8. I gather Thai Brides are much like cask ale, a bit hit and miss. One old timer at a beard club meeting told me about his last one. She liked to massage his balls after sex. He asked her why she did it. "I miss my own", she replied.

    Still, we'll get one from the "Good Thai Bride Guide" or summat for the experiment, like.

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  9. Mudgie. She would kill me if it was true.
    As Cookie points out - too full of pitfalls. Being killed by E being one of them.

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  10. The Blocked Dwarf is right, that is a fantastic picture, and says everything that needs saying about pubs. Yes you can tell something about the class of each of the men in the pic, but they are all sat at the same table, likely drinking the same beer (the guy in the middle's beer seems paler than the others but that could just be the light), thus the pub is the social leveller.

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  11. And either sparkled or very well conditioned pints.

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  12. An interesting, if tangential point - there are plenty of representations of foaming pints from that era, and of course there was the "Ancient Order of Frothblowers". We now tend to associate beer dispensed by gravity or through unsparklered handpumps with appearing a bit flat, so was it the custom in those days to condition beer so it contained more CO2? Something maybe linked to the North-East tradition of "bankers"?

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  13. So much opinion from a photograph. It's title, "lads of the village" tells me that the photograph was taken to celebrate the remarkable ages of those present. It says nothing of them liking or socialising together on regular basis in the pub or otherwise.

    Sorry, but mobility scooters are driven by old chavs and those whose lungs have been destroyed by years of smoking.

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  14. All I got out of the photo was 5 old codgers, all looking miserable, except the middle one because he has a lager.

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  15. I think there are still plenty of pubs like that around to be honest. The Prince Albert in EDgeley opens at 9.00am and there's usually a mobility scooter outside by half past.

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  16. Before the decades out I suspect we will see a race from the Greggs to the Albert, £2 breakies in hand, mobility scooters revving, between Clarkey & Mudgie.

    My moneys on Clarkey.

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  17. I will of course be pimping my mobility scooter

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  18. You'd win, Clarkster. Hands Down. Mudge will be distracted by the cheap grog in the Home Bargains.

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  19. That facial hair on display gives some of these young hipster beards something to aspire to.

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  20. They actually had some authentic Belgian stuff in Home Bargains the other day - Grimbergen Dubbel. £1 for a 33cl bottle, about 6% IIRC.

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  21. Brown beer from the grim mountain. Bet you filled your boots, fella.

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  22. Our bad-tempered behaviour is not a cry for help, say old men

    "As it emerged that many men will spend their declining years alone, aged males confirmed that beneath their crusty, irascible exterior there was only more irascibility.

    79-year-old Roy Hobbs said: “Some people seem to think that when I tell them to fuck off I actually mean ‘I crave companionship, come and have some cake’.

    “What I actually mean is ‘fuck off’."

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