We Are The Elderly Of The Future
From an elderly person's point of view
Blessed are they…
Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and shaking hand.
Blessed are they who know my ears today
Must strain to hear the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know
My eyes are dim and my answers slow.
Blessed are they who look away
When my tea was spilled at the table today.
Blessed are they who with a cheery smile
Will stop to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say
“You’ve told that story twice today.”
Blessed are they who know my ways
And bring back memories of yesterdays.
Blessed are they who ease the days
And care for me in loving ways.
Blessed are they who make it known
I’m loved, respected and not alone.
Do you think we treat our elderly people with dignity and respect?
The word 'old' is almost a swear word.
"Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its vulnerable members."
Pearl S. Buck
We have created a society where becoming elderly is so negative that it’s almost a swear word.
There is no doubt that in the present day there is an extreme focus on staying young:
- Remove or cover up wrinkles
- Tuck and lift anything that droops
- Don’t let the grey hairs take over
- Take any kind of ‘cure’ to ward off becoming feeble minded
In fact do anything and everything - but don't grow old.
This pessimistic view of being elderly not only makes younger people's progression into older age one of despair. In addition, this despondency is mentally projected out towards the elders of our society.
The word 'old' is immediately visualised as a combination of negative ideas:-
- Physically unattractive
- A burden
- A liability
- Old fashioned
Furthermore, once you've reached a certain age, it's often assumed by society that you can't think, learn, reason or make decisions for yourself. This is a fallacy.
Most elderly people are more than capable of learning new ideas, to reason and to make sound judgements on what is best for them. The actual processing may take a little longer as age increases, but this does not make the end result any less sound.
No one has to fall in love with the idea of being old. Nevertheless, when society is fixated on youth having worth, the old have none, then we harm not only our elderly people, but society in general becomes unbalanced and unhealthy.
There is no doubt that old age does bring difficulties. The most common issues are – health and financial issues.
In short, at the time of our lives, except when very young, that we need the support and understanding of our society the most, is when, for many elderly people, they get the least.
Where is the love, honour and respect that our elders have earned? The human species seems to have developed the deplorable view that a person only has worth if they are below a certain age and that physically they look acceptable.
This foolishness overlooks the most important part of a person, whether young or old, the vital spark within that makes every human being unique. The older person still has the same vibrant spirit inside that has been present since they were born. Only the outer, protective shell has changed.
One of the main problems is of course our pre-occupation with a 'body-beautiful' and 'youth is all' syndrome.
In addition there is a perverse attitude at every level of society, which perpetuates the belief that elderly people have no more to offer - so much so that elderly people often believe this themselves.
This damaging belief also ignores other essential elements of being human such as:
- Life experiences and learning.
- Numerous contributions to society – including wars and campaigns to improve society for all.
- Years of hard work and often hardship
- Nurturing, caring and sacrifice.
- Accumulated knowledge,
These qualities are shunned simply because they are part of a person whose body has aged
Elderly people are often perceived as being different from the rest of society and in so doing many people have lost the ability to identify with them.
Not every society does have this view of ageing. There are many cultures in the world, where their elders are revered and esteemed. However, in the West, 'old', is viewed as a downgrade rather than an honourable status.
"Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little, but needs that little so much." ~Margaret Willour
Do you ever worry about getting older?
Elderly people contribute so much to society
"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."
- Mark Twain
If you believe that elderly people are simply a burden and make no contribution to society, then you are wrong. Of course there are many who are frail and through health issues are limited to what they can now achieve. Nevertheless, they have made their contribution to the society and benefits we currently enjoy.
Numerous elderly people are carers for young children, allowing parents to go out to work. Many are involved with volunteer associations and in fact keep them going. Some are still within the workforce although most do work that is poorly paid or not recognised - such as family care explained earlier.
Financially they should not be viewed as a 'cost' to governments. The majority of elderly people are only receiving back what they have put in by sheer hard work and sacrifice.
Our elders vote at election times so still have an influence on what political parties may succeed. Indeed with the ageing population continuing to expand, their impact will become greater.
The elderly are the foundation on which our present society has been built. Every benefit we enjoy today is because our elderly people invented, worked, fought and developed them.
Our elders are strong roots that keep society solid and healthy. They are the strong link from past to present. They are our living history.
For every one of us who has not yet reached our elder years, we should be fighting hard to change attitudes towards our older people. If not, the same fate that has befallen our present day elders will be our fate in the not too distant future.
© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell