An Outstanding Intergenerational Project
This is a story about Sean (not his real name) his identity has to be kept secret, for reasons that will become clear as I tell this tale. Sean would have had an interesting past life, not all of it on the right side of the law, consequently spent some of his time here on earth enjoying the benefits of her majesty’s hospitality.
Sean’s heart is mostly in the right place and he is very active in Transition Omagh. He approached the core group last year with an idea for a project for increasing the resilience of pensioners. He told us that he was nearly 68 years of age, was living on a meagre pension which was steadily being eroded by our nose diving economy, was renting his house and could see that he was clearly heading into an old age of poverty and loneliness. He submitted to us the following idea…..
He was going to commit a serious crime, something that would ensure if he was caught, that he would go to gaol for a long time. As you can imagine we were bemused and bewildered asking him why on earth would he want to do that? He said: “If I get sent down for 30 years or so that means I will probably die in prison, but before I die, I will have a cell to myself, I won't have to worry about heat, food or lighting. I will be able to watch television almost all day, I wont have to work anymore, will be surrounded by people all of the time hence wont be lonely and if I get sick will have the best of health care….. far better than in any of those homes for old people. I wouldn’t have to worry about not being fed as happens in the hospitals, or worry about old age abuse as the prison service has so many rules and regulations in place it would be impossible for a pensioner to be abused”. Still not sure where this conversation was going we asked what had this to do with Transition Omagh?
Sean’s reply was: “You are always talking about how pensioners and young people should get together to learn from one another. Well, what if we identify teenagers who have done time and form a mixed learning group of pensioners and young thugs? The youngsters would feel useful again by teaching the pensioners about crime, how to hijack cars, rob banks, maybe a bit of kidnapping, sell stolen goods, and so on. Even some old fashioned terrorism, the pensioners could go out with them on day release for on the job experience!”
At this point we began to think that the idea had merit, applying some of our criteria, we asked ourselves would it help to lower carbon footprint ? Absolutely! People living together in shared accommodation reducing energy use. Would it build resilience? For sure! Instead of being able to respond to change, the pensioner/prisoner would reduce the risk in the first place of any sudden changes, warmly cradled in the womb of a prison. Would it build community? Yes again, teenagers getting to know the older generation and then being able to move into and squat in their recently abandoned pensioner/ prisoner homes. This would not only obliterate the need to take out their own mortgages in the future but would give them back a sense of self worth as, they could even be guided into setting up a social enterprise which would ensure that the scheme would be sustainable on many levels far into the future.
After this conversation the core group sat for a long period having a visioning session around what this might look like. The crime would have to be low risk but high impact to have the support of the people, so when the news came out in court Sean would almost be applauded. We decided the perfect crime would be to rob a bank a kind of ironic payback from the people to the bank, it would also carry maximum penalties.
As usual the recruitment of teenagers would be a problem. Teasing this out it took a little time to find a neat solution. A dividend of the money stolen would be given to the teenagers, the rest of the money would be ploughed back into a programme for them, re-skilling every aspect of their lives, from their inner core to the most mundane things required to live in a resilient world. Exploring this line of thinking even further and looking from the future back to the past, we saw a world where old people everywhere start to take up the idea and flock to the prisons, begin to see how the prison regime completely changes from the effect of having many wise senior citizens within their walls. The University of the Third Age providing complete education all across the prisons. As prisoners become educated, equality creeps into their lives enabling them and eradicating the need for them to spend their lives incarcerated.
The real beauty of the scheme was that it would not need any funding as each project would be self perpetuating.
We decided to give it a go. We set up a sub group calling them the PRISON group. (Pensioner Rising up in Solidarity- Organised and Nonviolent)… Sean’s heist has been meticulously planned even down to the use of guns that when triggered shoot out a drop down flag that says Bang! on it. The teenagers took a bit of persuading and there were various and entirely understandable misconceptions around the project. At times it was downright problematic as the paramilitaries began to muscle in on the act demanding their share of the action! However we have got through all that now and we are ready to go. Sean’s training with the teenagers is now complete and the heist is planned for next month. So fingers crossed everyone and we will publish an update here in a couple of months time to let you know how we are getting on.