Books & Stories

Elderland

Pearl smiles sweetly at the charming young man and his heavily pregnant wife, as she hands over the keys to her house, the home she has lived in for fifty years. Today is Pearl’s 75th birthday, and she is moving to Elderland.

Elderland has been masterminded to provide older citizens with a safe and happy environment, and also to release private housing to the younger generation.

Pearl lives alone, since losing her husband five years ago. Her daughter Claire visits her as often as she can, but is always so busy working full-time and babysitting her grandchildren.

The car arrives to take Pearl on her new adventure. Elderlands are located on the outskirts of every large town or city, and after passing through a heavily wooded area, Pearl arrives at a security station to be checked-in. The large iron gates open up, and she is approached by a well-dressed, middle‐aged woman.

‘Welcome to Elderland Pearl, my name is Melody Brown, and I’m here to ensure you a smooth transition into your new environment,’ she says brightly, while shaking Pearl’s hand. A tram draws up beside them and they step on to it.

‘The trams run from 8am until 8pm every day.’ Melody informs her. ‘Those who can walk easily, board at the front, wheelchairs and mobility scooters load from the back.’

They pass through an area of lush green land, edged by neat bushes, before finally reaching a district where row upon row of small bungalows with brightly painted doors line the wide un-littered streets.

‘Here we are Pearl. This is your new home.’ Melody says proudly.

Pushing open the unlocked door, Pearl enters the living area, where her personal items have already been unpacked. She sees shelves filled with family photographs, her paintings adorning the walls, and a favourite flower vase filled with golden daffodils.

‘It’s very nice,’ says Pearl approvingly.

Suddenly, they hear a tap on the door, and a small stout woman appears.

‘Ah, come in,’ says Melody. ‘Pearl, this is Babs, who lives next door she’s here to help you to settle in. I’ll leave you now, so you can get to know one another.’

‘Time for a cuppa, you must be gasping,’ Babs says, giving Pearl a warm smile.

‘Sounds good,’ replies Pearl, gazing around at her new surroundings and feeling somewhat out of place.

‘Don’t worry,’ says Babs, ‘everyone finds it strange at first, but you’ll soon get used to it. This place is marvellous.’

Babs spends the next hour showing Pearl the activity apps on her personal tablet, and it seems she is certainly not going to be short of things to do.

‘Time for lunch,’ Babs announces, pressing a button on the tablet with a picture of a tram on it.

They travel on the tram to one of the many dining establishments, lunching on grilled chicken and a green salad, whilst Babs excitedly describes her life at Elderland.

‘I hardly have a minute to spare, there are so many activities. Indoor bowls, cards, gentle gym, theatre performances, music bingo, to name but a few.’

‘What’s music bingo?’ Pearl asks.

‘Oh, it’s great fun. Instead of calling numbers, a song is played, usually something from our era, and if the name of the song is on your card you cross it off. We sing along to the tunes too, so it’s really jolly, you’ll have to come with me.’

‘What do you enjoy most about being here?’ asks Pearl.

Babs sighs contentedly. ‘Probably that I feel completely safe. I had my handbag snatched just before I came here, and it was very unpleasant. But really, I suppose, everything - what’s not to enjoy?’

‘Hey,’ Babs continues, ‘you must put your name down for one of the summer breaks. Last year we went to Brighton, and when we arrived we were treated like celebrities, crowds of people came to greet us. Now we’re not slow trolleying around the supermarket holding people up, we’ve become special, it’s brilliant! Then there are the parties for the centenarians, and the weddings, there are loads of them,’ she laughs.

‘Right, I’ll just visit the ladies, and then we’ll go back.’ Babs tells Pearl.

Pearl gazes around her, noticing that everyone looks really fit - and happy too.

‘Hello,’ says a voice. Pearl turns around; a silver‐haired man with a ruddy complexion and kind-­‐looking eyes is standing beside her.

‘Are you a newbie?’ he asks.

‘Yes, I am, my name’s Pearl,’ she answers politely.

‘I’m Howard, just back from a round of golf. I used to be a farmer, so I like being out in the fresh air.

‘My late husband used to play golf,’ she volunteers. ‘And what about you, do you play?’ he asks.

‘Oh no, I’ve never played before, but maybe I’ll think about giving it a go,’ she replies.

‘Lessons are available. Just press the golfing app on your tablet, all the information is there.’ He hands her a card. ‘If you put me on your contact list, I’ll give you some practice rounds.’

‘I see you’ve made a friend already,’ says Babs cheerily, returning from the ladies.

The next four days fly by; Pearl is visited by a doctor, dietician, chiropodist and a hairdresser. She attends lessons on how to use her tablet, and is becoming quite proficient at finding her way around it.

After waiting the required five days before contacting her mother, Claire is anxious to know how she is doing, and taps in the mailing address she’s been given, to make face to face contact with her.

‘Hello Mum. How are you?’ Claire says, noticing how well her mother looks. ‘Oh, hello love. I’m absolutely fine,’ Pearl smiles contentedly.

‘Mum, I’ve just received my security pass. Can I come to visit you on Saturday?’

‘Oh, wait a minute love; I’ll just leave you for a moment, while I check my diary.’

After a few minutes Pearl returns to the screen.

‘I have a window between 2pm and 5pm, two weeks on Saturday, if that’s any good to you, Claire.’

Claire was gobsmacked.

‘You must be very busy, what are you getting up to?’ she asks.

‘Well... I’m going to music bingo with my neighbour Babs on Thursdays, I begin golf lessons tomorrow, and a charming man called Howard is going to help me to practice. He’s also taking me along to his Astronomy group, which sounds interesting, and Babs and I are shopping in the Elderland mall tomorrow.’

‘So you’re alright then, Mum.’ Claire was beginning to wonder who this person was, sitting in front of her – where on earth had her mother disappeared to. This confident, bubbly person with twinkly eyes didn’t at all resemble the mother who had riddled her with guilt because she never had enough time to spend with her.

‘I’m more than alright Claire,’ Pearl chirps. ‘Although, there is just one thing I’d like to change here, and that’s the name, Elderland. It really should be called Wonderland.’

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