Wednesday, December 28, 2011

People’s Reactions to Seniors and Old Age


I guess nobody wants to be reminded of their mortality. Yet, the statistics are dead on (pun intended) as each birth leads inexorably towards death. Then finally reaches it. You’re probably thinking that in this holiday season, what a subject to dwell on… But not a day passes by without my thinking about it. Not out of a morbid sense; just as a matter of fact.

Then, I’m also constantly reminded of it by people’s reactions at the sight of seniors, (that includes me) from family members or close enough acquaintances with whom an old person might be familiar. But I’ll get to this a bit later on.

For now, let me cite an example. Strangers, but not all, sitting on a bus for instance, seem to look right through the older person or after a short glance, look anywhere but directly at the senior. We’ve donned the cloak of invisibility… Thus, by pretending lack of attention or awareness, it justifies remaining sitting down until it’s time to get off the bus. Much younger people seem totally oblivious and continue their chatting or listening to whatever they were into until their bus stop while we hang on to the overhead pole for dear life. Speaking just for me, I choose to leave at a time when there will be seats available so that I don’t have to deal with standing up in a moving vehicle.

A particular annoyance is about offspring who deem it necessary to intervene when seniors contemplate a change or simply a job to do. As if the sight of a wrinkled face, gray or white hair, triggered the need in younger persons to offer “help” in the form of suggestions, but more often than not, definite advice? My friend has an unmarried daughter in her mid-twenties still living at home workless, who constantly advises her mother on how to dress a table, how to arrange furniture, how to do the laundry, how to do this and how to do that. A few weeks ago, my friend’s daughter even advised me on how to hammer a nail!!!  My friend often leaves her house to pay me a visit just to escape.

I admit that I don’t know what prompts a daughter or son to counsel a parent about life… when to stop RV’ing for instance… or how to organize one’s life or one’s house… when and where to move. And I’m not referring here to seniors who definitely show signs of diminishing capacities, but to those who are still in full command of theirs. Neither do I allege that all adult children do this, although I reckon that many do. Do we really appear so clueless that anyone short of our 20 to 30 years’ experience or more over theirs warrants intervention?

Let me offer some remarks that would help smooth out relationships between adult children and their senior parents:

Gray hair does NOT indicate rotting brain;

Wrinkled hands do NOT indicate inability to deal with household chores… but reluctance to do some; sometimes, we’d rather smell the roses or listen to the singing bird;

Shorter steps do NOT indicate incapacity to move but perhaps ill fitting shoes or corns;

And let’s face it… refusing certain invitations or activities does not imply that we CANNOT participate… just that we HAVE NO DESIRE TO. After a lifetime of experiences, many have lost their appeal.

A more tranquil approach to life does NOT mean we lost our spirit, but just that we’ve already done it all.

Let me compare seniors to onions. When we were teenagers, we thought ourselves immortal. At 15, doesn’t one know all about life? But a few strikes as we moved into adulthood and later on taught us. And as we progressed through life’s experiences, we found out that it was costly to insist on making all the mistakes by oneself just to learn. Life is too short and we couldn’t make them all. Layer after layer, we let go of expectations that were unrealistic and got to learn who we were at the core. Our goals became more attainable simply by virtue of self-knowledge.

I know that sometimes, we take longer to make a decision. That’s because we have lived long enough to have repented of hasty ones. In our fifties, we may have chosen to hang on to a more youthful appearance. But that’s a lot of work and eventually, we accepted the correct time since we simply couldn’t stop the clock. A self-evident truth that doesn’t spell defeat but wisdom.

Perhaps it is that all that we have let go of is not worthy of keeping.

There are cultures that cherish and honour their seniors and even seek their advice. Now, that’s turning the table!

I’m inviting all seniors who wish to offer comments to do so. Not necessarily gripes, but little quirks that are sometimes an affront to our age and capabilities.

Next week, back to construction.

1 comment:

Tesaje said...

RE the young'uns ordering their elders about. That is a clear case of lack of personal boundaries at any age. It has been my observation that the people who have the least control over themselves are the ones who try to control others. I would stop that nonsense by inviting the child to leave my home and get their own home where they can do as they please. It does behoove each of us to set boundaries by being indignant about inappropriate behavior inflicted upon us.

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