I fondly remember that marvellous TV series of the 1990s - Waiting for God. Two feisty oldsters, Tom and Diana, living in Bayview Retirement Village, under the management of Harvey and his hapless assistant Jane. Continually looking for ways to sabotage and subvert the efforts of Harvey and Jane in their 'management' of the residents, Tom and Diana never let an opportunity go by. Even though it was funny, there was a serious message in the weekly escapades of the residents - how to live a meaningful life, build good and strong friendships, how to remain independent in mind and body for as long as possible, when all around you are slowly fading away, whether it be mentally, physically or both. 

Hendrik Groen is one such elderly resident of a residential care home. There is enormous speculation around the world as to whether he is a real person or not, adding a touch of frission to the story telling. In the Netherlands where it was originally published  in 2014 it has been a sensation, and taken the world by storm since its translation into other languages. Most of us will make old bones, and it makes sense for us to be naturally curious, frightened, pragmatic, even fatalistic about where and how we will live out our last days. This could well give you a few ideas to make it all bearable!

This retirement home, north of Amsterdam, sounds like a very reasonable place to be. Hendrick has his own unit within the complex, he lives independently, with like minded people living just like he is. At the beginning of the year, January 1, he decides to write a diary, documenting exactly what goes on in a rest home, because it would appear a lot goes on behind closed doors that never gets out. He has a number of good friends in the complex including the totally impossible Evert, doing everything he can to subvert the noble aims of management. Just like a bunch of teenagers really, hassling their teachers or parents. 

Death, naturally, is part and parcel of everyday life in the home. One day Hendrik has a new neighbour, Eefje,  with whom he strikes up a beautiful friendship, showing that even in your 80s, it is never too late to fall in love or find your soul mate. He, Eefje, Evert and a few other similarly rascally residents form a group - The Old But Not Dead Club - where they take it in turns to organise day outings. These outings and the camaraderie give the old people a new lease of life, some point to their increasingly constrained existences. Some great times are had, and Hendrik is a marvellous chronicler of the goings on in the home. 

We never learn much about Hendrik and his life prior to coming to the home. He is widowed, and lost his only child many years ago. He doesn't have family visiting, or taking him on outings, so becomes a very astute observer of the lives of those around him. He also has a brilliant relationship with his mobility scooter which also gives him considerable freedom, and allows him to pass disparaging comments about fellow mobility scooter users. Very funny.

It is a wonderful story, who cares if it is true or not. It is exactly the type of old person I want to be - slightly bonkers, subversive, able to have great relationships still with people, and seize the day even if at times it will be bloody difficult! 

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