The Zimmers is an English band whose average age is nearly 80, who stormed the charts in May 2007 with their version of The Who’s My Generation.
The group takes its name from the Zimmer frame, the UK term for a mobility aid known in other countries as a walker.
The group were brought together by BBC documentary-maker Tim Samuels, who planned to shoot a television documentary on the feelings of isolation and imprisonment suffered by the elderly. He said: ”I set out to make a programme exploring how we treat old people in this country…. So many are dumped in homes, stuck on their own, brushed under the carpet and marginalised. If you can judge a society by how well it looks after its old people, I always suspected we’d be in trouble.”
Therefore he visited a lot of care homes that were often shabby, and occasionally grossly negligent and found residents left to stagnate, placed all day in front of the TV and denied crucial medical supervision. Others lived in isolated tower blocks where they were afraid to go out after dark and ate at supermarket cafes in the hope of a little social interaction, while many relied only on bingo as a social activity.
One of the group said, “Old people in this country are just brushed to one side, like rubbish, past our sell-by date. People seem to think that if you’re old, then you’re silly and doddery and pointless. Walk down the street, and people don’t notice us – we’ve become invisible.”
Samuels’ aim was to make them visible again, to give them a voice – and what better way than to get them in the pop charts?
After gathering them up, from homes, tower blocks and pensioner singing groups he took them through a rock and roll journey to bring them back to life a bit.
A really hard task, given that none of the group had any professional musical background. They were just 40 lonely old people brought together for a BBC documentary to challenge the way the elderly are regarded.
They were given training by voice coaches and then brought to the recording studios in London, in many cases along with their medical staff.
The Zimmers went into the famous Abbey Road Studios to create a cover version of The Who’s classic song “My Generation”, to show that old people should not be brushed under the carpet. It was not so simple to record the single, since it was necessary to coordinate absences due to treatment for various medical problems
The Zimmers’ logo is a parody of The Beatles’ logo, as is the image of them walking across Abbey Road.
They’ve a combined age of 3,000, enough wrinkles for a herd of elephants and can’t run fast enough to escape the groupies, but they have been able to defeat one of the biggest nightmares for many people: loneliness and isolation
And what about money? All the profits from that single will go to Age Concern, a group of charitable organisations (NGOs) concerned with the needs and interests of all older people, based chiefly in the four countries of the United Kingdom.
‘We don’t want any money!‘ exclaimed one of the Zimmers, when he was asked the question. ‘What would we do with it? This is bigger than money – it’s a fairy story come true, at Abbey Road.’