Summer nights – Older people in London

There were a group of dancers entertaining the crowd. They didn’t seem to be busking but they’d certainly got some interest. I took a few shots, trying to get some of the small children who were imitating them. And then I noticed an elderly man who was watching them. He started to walk away at one point and then came back to his post at the lamp post to continue watching them.

An elderly man watches dancers at Piccadilly CircusHe was so interesting in comparison to all the tourists milling around.

In years of photographing around the West End and Soho, I’ve noticed that I don’t see that many elderly people. It’s a shame – these parts of London belong to everyone just as much as the more residential areas. (I do see lots of elderly people around Covent Garden and Holborn close by because these are also residential areas.) I think Soho and the West End are the poorer for not attracting older people.

As someone who was brought up by my grandparents for a while, I really appreciate what older people have to give to our communities. I would hate to see London become a city that is empty of older generations.

But maybe that won’t happen: on the same evening, I saw this lady outside Ronnie Scott’s.

An elderly woman smokes a cigarette outside Ronnie Scott's in Soho, London

9 thoughts on “Summer nights – Older people in London

  1. Thank you for this. It is extremely important to reflect and show just how important seniors are in our communities overall, as well as our individual lives. I think we don’t focu on them because they represent death, dying and the gradual loss of ability and independence and the vast majority of us fear these things like the plague.

    We do not have to have such constapated ideas; nevertheless. We do not have to run away from our elders or hide them away because of our inane fears and shallow self-conciousness. It does bot us and them a service to focus on them and show them off. Show, perhaps especially, those who don’t give up on themselves and life, and keep on keeping on with dignity.

    This is a specific recurring theme in my project:

    1. I too fear that loss of independence. I admire older people who hold on to it and cherish it. It’s important for our mental health as much as anything.

  2. Hi, I live in Thailand and when I am out and about the senior citizens of the country are not really seen. They are to busy looking after their children’s children. However, returning to England for our summer vacation I see many older people in the streets, driving cars etc. To me at first, the sight does frighten me a little. This may be due to the fact I am getting older.
    Age is a mere number and as long as you can move, get out there and enjoy life.

  3. There are a surprising number of people living in and around the West End. There used to be a lot of public housing, but I guess all that’s left is the ones used by people who have long term tenancies they are not willing to give up – primarily older people. You’ve highlighted an interesting phenomenon.

    1. Thanks Ian,

      There are a lot of council and housing association flats around Covent Garden and Holborn which are slightly further east. And there are also schools. So if you wander off the beaten track a little round Covent Garden – ie away from the Piazza and Long Acre – you’ll see older people and crocodiles of school children, but move into Soho and further west and they seem to disappear, unless they’re tourists.

  4. I think that the touristy and noisy parts of the West End do put older people off, as a rule. I think they may feel a little intimidated by the noise, music and other aspects of modern life, which tend to exaggerate themselves in that part of London. As people get older, they tend to prefer quieter and calmer places.

    Great shots btw. The last image of the old dear is a gem. 🙂

    1. Thanks Bill. Interesting idea that older people prefer quieter areas. I also think that if you don’t get older people in an area, even shopping, then the shops don’t cater for them and it’s a downward spiral.

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