I wanted to write a post about why we need to change the way we think about our elders because I'm just about to finish reading a brilliant book that's really made me think about the subject. The book is 'Elizabeth is Missing' by Emma Healey and I very much recommend it. It follows the story of Maud, an elderly lady who is convinced her friend is missing. As Maud suffers from dementia, she can never remember the clues she needs to solve the mystery. It's a darkly comic, very sad and real look at mental illness. As I read about Maud suffering through indignity, frustration and anger, it made me think that sadly, this kind of treatment isn't reserved for fiction. So, here are 7 reasons why we should change the way we think about our elders.
I really think we need to change the way we think about our elders because, at the moment, we don't seem to appreciate their wealth of experience. We can read about the past and we can learn about it but we can never really know what's it like. Older people who've experienced some of it are our closest link to what came before, to what makes us, us. Think how much the world has changed in the last 100 years - don't you want to find out about it first-hand?
There are few things that break my heart more than hearing about or seeing an older person who has no-one to keep them company. Unfortunately, it's true of a lot of people. The sad reality is that maybe they never had families or maybe most of the people they knew have died. We have a responsibility to older generations, to try to help those that are lonely. And if that doesn't get to you, think about it - it could be you one day.
One thing that stood out for me with the book is how the protagonist make references to how we treat all older people the same - from how we expect them to dress, to how they act. But why should you lose some of your identity as you age? Maybe the old age 'uniform' of silver perms and cardies makes it easier for us to dismiss people. How many times have you heard someone say 'silly old fool' or 'he's old, he doesn't know what he means'?
I know, I know, what a cliché. But they do say you get a better perspective on things as you get older; what matters, what doesn't matter so much. I wouldn't mind a bit of that kind of perspective.
5. They've Got Form
If you think about it, exempting the last 200 years or so, the only people we ever turned to for advice were our elders. They steered us reasonably well for centuries. Not only that but other cultures, outside of western society, traditionally value their elders more than we do. They look to them for advice and they look after them as they get older. I wish there was more of that kind of mindset within our society.
6. 'I Wasn't Always 83'
I don't know about you but sometimes I can't imagine the older people in my life being young. I've only ever remembered them as 'old' and so it's difficult to imagine them at our own age, with the same problems that come with that age. I think that's something a lot of us do and it creates a divide that doesn't need to be there.
7. Time Limit
I don't want this to be the most depressing post EVER WRITTEN but we don't know how much longer we might have to get to know the older people in our lives. Make the most of it.
Well, I hope that inspires you to go visit your grandparents and go volunteer at an old people's home! Think what a difference it would make if we all did something like that. Do you think we don't value our elders enough?