On your doorstep
We speak to Maxine Bassue
Since our inception Shine has spoken to many older people in Leeds, but all of them over the phone or on Zoom. Now Covid restrictions have eased we are starting to see people in real life. To keep everyone safe we meet outdoors – on people’s doorsteps. In this feature we’ve teamed up with the Centre for Ageing Better to some meet some inspirational older people who are active in their communities; people who are defying the negative stereotypes about getting older and redefining what ageing can look like. You can watch a short segment of the interview or read the full interview below.
Maxine Bassue is an enthusiastic, energetic person – she’s full of life and zest. She is a really busy member of her community in Chapeltown. Maxine recently retired but now has a packed schedule of activities that keep her active: dancing, swimming, gardening – and much more. She’s a regular attendee at Feel Good Factor, a health and well-being project based in LS7.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Maxine. I’m 57 and I’ve lived in Leeds all my life. I’ve recently taken early retirement from work. I was a family outreach worker for Leeds City Council. I’ve retired for various reasons but mostly because I’m tired. Shattered. I also wanted to put a priority on myself, my own health and well-being. Not working full-time in a very emotionally challenging job is a big change for me. I have two children, they are 36 and 31. I’ve lived in this house for 24 years. I spend a lot of time caring for my great uncle, who is 90 and very poorly. I’ve got two beautiful grandchildren who I love dearly. They keep my sprightly, happy and feeling young!
What do you hope to do with your time now you’ve retired?
Even before it was official that I’d leave work, I already had a plan. I was checking out what was available in the community, what I could tap into. I knew definitely that I didn’t just want to be doing nothing. My mind and my body are too active for that. I knew a bit about what was happening in the community. But I also had things I wanted to do: I wanted to learn to swim. I had things already planned. Other people were saying to me, “Just chill out a bit, take a bit of time.” But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to make sure I had a plan.
How did you get involved with Feel Good Factor?
I knew Feel Good Factor from the job I was doing as a family outreach worker. Prior to that I was at Sure Start. I took a lot of (what I call) service users to Feel Good Factor. I knew what services they had. I’m now a participant – a service user! It feels very natural to me. I feel very comfortable just rolling up there. I love it.
Why is your community important to you?
I live in Chapeltown. I’ve lived here all my adult life. It’s the best place to live. It’s vibrant, it’s diverse, there’s so much you can do in Chapeltown. There’s so much on offer. You don’t have to go too far. I’m always able to tap into what’s going on.
It sounds like you are very busy?
I just love life too much to sit at home and waste the day! It’s my zest for life. I always want to be with a group of people, talking, doing something. I get itchy if I don’t! I just love people. Just being around other people can lift the mood and prevent loneliness. It can change someone’s mindset for the day. Sometimes I come to a group from seeing my uncle – and it’s emotionally exhausting. And just seeing people lifts my spirits. Just having a talk to someone. Socialisation is so important.
How to you feel about getting older?
My mum’s generation say, “you’re still young, you’re still baby.” But I feel I am old. 57 is nearly 60! It’s old enough. I’m no spring chicken. Physically, I feel older – I have aches and pains, my hair is grey, I take medication for certain things. And sometimes I’m tired – physically but not mentally. My body says to me, “You need to take a chill pill! Take a rest.” I know I’m not as old as my mum, but it’s ok. Age just crept up on me. Slowly, slowly, slowly – and there I was, in my late 50s. I’m used to it, I’m happy with it.
I like to think it’s ok to get older. As long as I maintain good health and a positive mindset, I’m happy with getting older. I look upon my younger days with a laugh and with joy. I don’t have regrets. I’m old but I’m not obsolete. I’m just in a different stage of my life. Being old doesn’t mean the end. It’s the start of a journey. I’m so proud of my mum because she doesn’t let age stop her doing anything.
I think getting older doesn’t need to be the end of fun. Or the end of learning. Meeting new people, seeing new places – you can still do all of those things as you get older. I feel like it’s my time, to seize back opportunities. For many years, I put myself on the back burner. I put all my efforts into raising my kids, bringing up my family. Juggling work and all that. But now I want to do something for me. I don’t think I buckled down enough when I was at school. I just liked having fun! And messing about. I did ok but I could have done so much better. So now learning, for me, is massive. I love to learn new things. You can learn so much from people. I have a hunger to learn.
I think we live in an ageist society. Sometimes older people are thrown on the heap, seen as redundant. They’ve done their time. They’re not as important. They want younger people for jobs, for example. I don’t think that’s fair. Older people have value, they have experience, they have knowledge. They’ve got history. They should be seen as important - if not more important - than younger people.
I’m sad when I see what sickness has done to my uncle. How cruel sickness can be. The social care system isn’t right for older people. Those people who’ve got property have a fear of having to sell their home when they’ve worked and paid their taxes all their life. I think it is unfair. And they’re hoping you pop your clogs before you get your pension. It’s very cruel.
In different places in the world, older people are looked at in higher regard. In Asian cultures and in the Caribbean. The way I was brought up, we look after our elders, we take them into our homes and look after them until they die. It’s why I spend so much time looking after my uncle. The good thing is that there are services for older people to tap into. In Chapeltown the services are there. Older people are valued. I’ve used Age UK, Carers Leeds and Leeds Black Elders. They’ve all helped with older members of my community.
How are you feeling about the pandemic and where we are now with Covid?
In the first bit of Covid, I was anxious, I was frightened and suspicious. What struck me was the inability to get out and socialise. To see people, to be around people, to talk to people. I used to say, “I’m so lonely!” Talking on the phone wasn’t the same, I really needed to see people face-to-face. I struggled. This can really affect people’s mental health. Now we have the freedom to go out. I’m still very sensible, very cautious. But I feel I’m free now! It was a long time coming. The only good thing about the pandemic is that it possibly slowed us down a little bit. Gave us a chance to look at what is really important in life. We’ve lost people. Personal losses. But I’ve got a very positive mindset. I have anxieties and I fight against them. We’ve got to get back out there!
What do you love about Leeds?
Leeds is all I’ve ever known. I’ve been to a lot of other cities. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Midlands. But I would never go anywhere else to live. It’s a very warm city. It’s pretty. Some lovely parks. Transport is good – it’s easy to nip and out. And people are friendly. It’s vibrant. It tops a lot of cities. I have I’m always happy to come back to Leeds. It’s the best, it is. The best.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to doing more travelling. I want to see more of the Caribbean islands. I’ve been to Jamaica and St Kitt’s a few times – and Cuba, Turkey, lots of countries. But I want to travel and see more places. My absolute passion is to go to Africa. I want to visit Ethiopia – as soon as I can. Between now and 60 – that’s my dream. I’ve always been mystified about Ethiopia. I’m intrigued. People have told me that you “feel” something when you go there. I want to find out for myself. I’d love to spend 6 months in the Caribbean, 6 months here.
I also want to go to more reggae concerts. Reggae is my genre. I like “conscious” lyrics. I like anybody who promotes having a conscience. Buju Banton, Bob Marley, Chronixx, Koffee. They’re all Jamaican artists. I’m of Jamaican parentage, it’s very strong in me.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m doing things I never thought I would. I’m learning to swim, which is a big thing for me – I thought I’d be crying – but I’m loving it!
Quick Q & A with Maxine Bassue
When did you last cry?
I’m not a crier but I cried last week. Around my uncle and his care, it just
got overwhelming. But it’s ok to cry. It’s a release.
When did you last really laugh?
The last time I had a really good belly laugh was my birthday in July. We
had a lot of people on this decking! And we had a really good laugh.
Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to?
I don’t really like the question! I’m not into celebrities and all that. I don’t look up to people in that way; they’re just people with a talent. But I love my Mummy to bits and she’s my hero!
What is your favourite place in Leeds?
Leeds city centre. I’m always running around town, doing one thing or the other. I love town and know it well. I’m known for always being in town – and keeping it real!
Thanks Maxine for letting us On Your Doorstep.
Thanks to the Centre for Ageing Better for sponsoring this feature.
The Centre for Ageing Better has a vision for society where everyone
enjoys later life.
Find out more about the great work they do at www.ageing-better.org.uk