The past (Glasgow Jewish Community, dementia & reminiscence)

Is the past best left behind?

Yesterday, the day before, OK – what you are up to, what’s going-on; but back thirty, forty years and more – what does this add? How does this shake-up our present?

I have just joined a reminiscence group from the Glasgow Jewish Community I left behind many years ago – my ‘time period’ was late 70’s to mid 80’s, I then moved-on. I did return, but was never really part of the scene.

So, in the featured years I was five to 12; seven years out of my current 40-odd.

There are others who are older – in their seventies and eighties, reminiscing on their lives back in the 50’s.

And, to me there are a couple of weird things – first, the person I was then is no longer – I have morphed physically and spiritually; sure, you could recognise me from a picture if you stared long enough, and there would likely be aspects of my personality that have persisted – enjoyment of quiet, puzzlement with technology, love of nature. But, most has likely shifted – transformed over time.

And the second, most interesting, which relates more to my present, is that these reminiscences are so akin to the lives of the people who have dementia I work with.

‘Janice’, 87 who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago cradles the doll, searches for her mum and worries about getting home for dinner. It is impossible to say where her mind has taken her – to what specific age or era, and it is likely her perceptions are a hodgepodge of different timelines and events. She sees the world through her ageing eyes, but sees herself as eight or nine or ten. The haziness, diminution of light from cataracts or macular degeneration potentially adding a yesteryear patina.

I talk with Janice, and explain I am the doctor – she can reconcile this as when she was a girl, the doctor would have been present;

And I reflect on the people who have joined the reminiscence page – how many of them will have lived through grief, failure, cancer, joy – how many will currently be living with dementia and this technology perhaps functioning therapeutically to ease their experience.

Living in the past does little for the present or the future, with the exception of those historians who rally against us repeating our follies.

I watched a TV programme the other night with Andrew Marr – the story of The Great War. Interestingly, in the 1916’s similarly crazed politicians incited the British population to all-out hatred of Naturalised Germans living in the UK, using the same tactics of lies and fabrication as Johnson and Farage last year. Anyone seeing the ease with which nationalism slips into mindlessness could have predicted the EU referendum.

So, this kind of past is good, and it is likely not particularly harmful to look back and think how far you have come – if you have travelled a distance;

Like other aspects of Facebook, there is always the risk of comparison. Measuring-up your successes with those of peers; like the harm associated with teens sitting alone at night flicking through updates of friends and class-mates out enjoying themselves, taking snaps of the good times, burying the bad – portraying a timeline of smiles without the lows.

So, modern technology meets yesterday’s Glasgow Jewish Diaspora and brings people together.

Make the most of it while it lasts – don’t look too closely at the details, allow the cracks to be papered-over by whatever strategies people have used to get-on, accept that life is hard for most of us and for all the good times, there are bad, for all the celebrations there are tragedies.

Move-on and revel in the Yiddish.

schneider

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