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A Tale of Two Stories

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Several years ago, I got in touch with a psychic, via the world wide web. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that. I have not done anything like it since.

In my menopausal-sad-anxiety-ridden brain, I asked her what I was supposed to be doing with my life… MY PURPOSE. I mean, besides being a wife and mother, daughter and sister, friend… What am I really supposed to be doing? Pretty open-ended question, she could’ve gone way crazy with her answer. But she didn’t. I appreciate that now.

She told me that my marriage was rock solid, and that we would stay married forever. I knew then that she was cra cra because that was when I wasn’t liking my husband much – of course she didn’t know that. But she gave me some advice.

The advice she gave me was that I needed to help people – it’s who I was. My purpose = helping others.

She went on to say that it wouldn’t come quickly to me, how to help others. That I would probably have to chew on it for a bit, giving it careful consideration.

She advised me not to think small-scale. I needed to help others in a much larger way.

At that time, my daughter was volunteering at a local nursing home/rehab center and would return home every day with THE BEST stories. She said I should come volunteer with her. Nah… wasn’t my thing. While I have always liked being around older people, I felt like I had nothing to offer.

I was more interested in reaching people through cooking. I really liked to cook and thought about joining a soup kitchen or placing an ad on a bulletin board at the grocery store to have people come and cook with me. Sounded like a good plan, sorta kinda. After a little research and thought, those ideas went by the way side.

Another year went by – with this helping-people-on-a-larger-scale PURPOSE (in the back of my head), I decided to volunteer at the same nursing home my daughter volunteered at.

I was thinking of what I could do to help. I could help in the kitchen. Nope. That’s not where they needed me. Maybe I could pass out books or magazines? Nope, did that only once. Maybe they could use my help during bingo or arts & crafts. Did that only once too.

Where did they put me? They put me in charge of “chat.”

ME, THE INTROVERTED SHY WOMAN. I shake my head with this memory…

I was in charge of leading a discussion once a week. I could talk about anything I wanted (yep, ANYTHING). My first discussion, because it was right around November 8, was the election. Why not?

They were all hot and bothered! Their political views shocked the crap out of me.

Another discussion I had was only around this question, “If you were on death row, and you were being executed tomorrow, what would you want for your last meal?” Their answers were pretty unanimous – again, not at all what I was expecting. Want to know what they all said?

But after four months, I quit. I knew I wasn’t helping any of them. It was so gosh-darn hard to get older people to talk. Seriously.

But for those that did talk to me, and there were always a few, they were goldmines. Full of every experience. Most of them were in their 90’s. Their stories, mostly of how they came to America, were incredible. Life was much simpler. They knew everything about everything and whatever they didn’t know they simply said, “I don’t know anything about that.”

So why is it, that none of us pay attention to our elderly? Yeah, we think they are sweet (or maybe a little bitter), but we mostly ignore them. In my opinion, this generation should not be ignored. Listen to their stories, their lives, their grandchildren’s lives. They light up when they talk to you about their lives.

Oh my, it’s raining outside. Just loving this moment even more…

The Second Story

What is our misconception about the elderly? Do we think they can’t contribute any more to society, or that they are tired and don’t process a single thought? Do we think they are just sitting around waiting to die? I decided to let my fingers do the walking on the internet to see what the “experts” said about our shunning the elderly.

The Media’s Portrait

Healthcare Resources, in Arlington, Texas wrote an article on “The American Perspective on Aging and Health.” An excerpt, “We see evidence of this bias towards older Americans especially in the media. In films and on TV old people are very often depicted as weak, indecisive, bumbling or even comic. We laugh at their misdeeds and forgive their mistakes knowing in the back of our minds that they are old and can’t help themselves. We view them not as capable as younger people. It is rarely that we see older people depicted as decisive, strong or as leaders.”

The Elderly’s Role

The article continues on the elderly side, “Instead of taking the role as leaders in their families or in the community as is the case in some countries, the elderly in our country, even after successful careers in earlier years, simply become invisible… They are rarely asked to assume responsible roles in the community. And unlike other cultures, older Americans often abandon themselves to control by other people, often their children and their health care providers. Instead of taking responsibility for their own decisions they will rely on children or others to make decisions for them. Many of them seem to enjoy the role of becoming dependent on others. And it is all too often the case that family and others pander to this submissive role of the elderly and we begin treating them like children. 

This generally accepted perception of aging in our country has resulted in the elderly themselves and in the community at large regarding older people as less valuable than younger people. The assumption is that the elderly have lost the ability to think clearly, to learn new things and they are generally incapable of any physical activity other than walking or sitting. This attitude also carries over into the health treatment that older Americans receive.”

My 2 Cents

Maybe as we age we are tired and exhausted from a life well lived. Going to school, working a job or forging a career, nurturing a marriage, raising children, maintaining status-quo, the ups and downs, illness, death, hellos and goodbyes. Maybe as we age we want not to be responsible anymore. Maybe we feel we have lived life fully and are finally ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Elderly Jumping on Bed

Of course we don’t know the true answer to this, why the youth ignore the elderly. But we’ve lived over half of our lives already, we can give it our best guess. I think it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

But I can tell you this, in 20 some-odd-years from now, my husband and I will be ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

If you liked this little article, I would be grateful if you shared it with your friends.

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