It concerned the stimulation of people hospitalised, severely handicapped, and I equated their lives to that of a man working on a freighter, except that they had no choice, while he had chosen that occupation. I’m not suggesting that nothing is being done, because I have a relative whose full-time job is stimulating those poor young children being treated in hospital for cancer. And I also know of other cases where people entertain the inmates of care homes, generally at times like Christmas. My problem is that there is a insufficient attempt to stimulate these people, and whether their carers are aware of it and not, they are left to vegetate.
I believe the solution lies mainly with those groups of people who meet on a regular basis, and are intrinsically joiners of a sociable nature. The athletic clubs would not be a source, as they are run professionally and especially for the stimulation of their members. It is more the amateur groups, the Cubs, Scouts, the members of Probus, retired men who meet on a regular basis for coffee or a luncheon, and receive or give lectures; art associations, or maybe the like of camera clubs. The one thing about any amateur charitable work is that the recipients, by its very nature, have expectations, which have been awakened, and this in turn demands stamina to maintain the proposition indefinitely. So many of these ideas start with good intentions, build up successfully, but the stamina is not there to maintain it forever.
Once upon a time I was part of a group who provided a Talking Newspaper for the blind. We worked in teams for two reasons, one was that it took a fortnight at least to gather up enough material, and the other was the weekly newspaper was too demanding on the time of the team. Taking this as a general example it is clear that if all the permutations of people incarcerated in institutions or their own home are to receive stimulation from time to time, the latter being taken to a meeting place, in every area this must be managed to ensure that it is not a seven-day wonder, and that sufficient people are available to supply, from time to time, different forms of stimulation, indefinitely. I have used the analogy of people on board ship. It was my experience when I was on convoy duty, and we had little shore time, that any change in our routine, from the like of a visit from an all women gun crew, to an inboard sports day while being on convoy, had two strong effects. To start with the anticipation was a subject of conversation realised a week if not more in advance. After the event, it was again a subject of conversation, of ridicule of some of the crew, and the effect on the morale was unimaginably high.
Someone like the Mayor or the Lord Mayor of a town or city should appoint somebody to oversee the type of entertainment I’m proposing, consisting of interesting talks preferably illustrated, music, some of the performing arts, and especially children performing for these elderly people, who above all enjoy the company of children. There will be those in the audience who will be comatose or irascible, but they will be in a minority. I believe the trial runs of a period of six months during the winter, in two or three areas in the UK, should be tried with all the stops pulled out. Once that is analysed, possibly pulled apart and put together again, some effort should be made to make it universal, where large quantities of associations are involved for very short periods, with long intervals, to ensure that the stamina is maintained, and therefore the project is workable. I know from my own experience that people generally enjoy being part of a charitable organisation, but only if it is smoothly run, without bitching and rancour, which can be quite common, and that the recipients are equally happy.