Memory and Music

Music invokes memories. I know this from experience. Stairway to Heaven will forever transport me to my teenage years, lying in bed with the cassette player on the floor playing Led Zeppelin over and over again. Three Times a Lady takes me onto a dimly lit dance floor and into the arms of a long-forgotten love. Anthems such as Throw Your Arms Around Me and Working Class Man remind me of nights spent with friends at one pub or another, listening to cover bands and singing along very badly, with drunken abandonment.

At last Friday Night at the NGV, as part of the Van Gogh Four Seasons exhibition, the Blackeyed Susans played while the audience of mostly over 40s, swayed and bobbed and head banged their way through the songs. The music didn’t summon any memories for me as, at the peak of their success in the 90s, I was grooving to the sounds of the Wiggles and Don Spencer, along with my three sons. But it was obvious that most of the people at the National Gallery of Victoria that night were reliving their youth through the tunes being played. There were even groupies, if you can call them that; women dressed in clothes more reminiscent of their teens but in larger sizes, pushing through the crowd to reach the front of the stage and dancing in a way which they thought provocative.

All around me the grey haired, both men and women, forgot their daily worries, their slightly too much weight around the middle, their relationship problems, the work they hated, their mortgages and credit card debts and personal loans. The music soared over them, around them and through them, carrying them back in time to moments which were perhaps less fraught with difficulties, less responsible and a tad more fun.

Of course, music can also remind you of sad times. Marianne Faithfull’s The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, is my number one go to song whenever I’m feeling low. I can always listen to Tupac’s Until the End of Time, which triggers memories of randomly writing poetry full of angst, but lacking finesse. When I’m angry or frustrated the song in my head, reminding me that I can achieve my goals, never wavers from Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. I want Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, along with Youth Group’s Forever Young played at my funeral, or my wake, or perhaps the party I have on my death bed so I can listen to them too.

And that’s the beauty of music. There is always a song to suit the occasion; to bring back the good old days, comfort you when you are miserable and lift your spirits in times of need. We all have a sound track to our lives, one which invokes memories and makes memories.

Women over 50 and Homelessness

I am very lucky. I have a home, a job, a family and friends. I can afford to pay the bills and eat. As I’m single, I am fortunate enough to be able to make my own decisions. If I feel like staying in pyjamas all day, I can. If I want to eat toast for dinner, I can. On the other hand, it would sometimes be nice to have someone to discuss my day with, or cuddle up to while watching a movie. But I am still so much better off than a lot of other women.

I was reminded of this when I flicked the TV over to The Drum last week and caught a discussion about women over 50 and homelessness. You can see it here: According to The Drum, there has been an increase of up to 44% of women over 50 seeking homeless services in the last five years. 44%!

There is always talk about the greedy baby boomers, who selfishly hold onto jobs and property, thereby denying younger generations. But, although there are definitely wealthy baby boomers around, there are also those who are struggling to survive and a high percentage of those are women. Many of these women stayed at home when they had children, which lead to a loss of income. By staying out of the workforce, they then found it difficult to reenter it when their children started school. Or, by that time they were caring for elderly parents. Or they were victims of domestic violence.

Many older females have practically no superannuation. It wasn’t until the 1980s that employer contributions to superannuation started and 1991 before the Superannuation Guarantee came into place. According to the ASIC website, in 2013-14 Australian women aged 60-64 had on average $138,150 in superannuation savings, which was less than half of the average male account balance.

Research for this post uncovered several articles from up to six years ago which all say the same thing – homelessness for older women is increasing. For six years this has been written about, discussed, dissected, and written about again. But what is happening to fix this problem? Sure, there is government funding and peak bodies who are providing the research and groundwork in this debate. Sure, there are now discussions about gender imbalance and, in some cases, the imbalance is being rectified. But who is going to rectify the imbalances of the past? What can be done to help the women who are homeless, or in fear of becoming homeless, right now?