About old age
So you have reached 65, 70, 80, 90 and beyond… Your acquaintances greet you with: “Wow, isn’t it wonderful that you made it so far. You look very well for your age.” How do they know how you are supposed to look at any age? The next comment is usually “How do you like retirement? Isn’t it wonderful to have all that freedom, to be free of work?”
What freedom – you ask. Your body begins to limit your activities, your legs hurt, you can’t walk as much as you used to, arthritis starts to bother you, even driving a car begins to be a chore. Besides – where can you go? To the store, library, church – perhaps to see your friends- those who are still alive. You can’t go very far because sooner or later (usually sooner) you will need a bathroom; in fact you will begin to feel as though you are chained to it. And the eternal fatigue will also seem to hang around too much.
Your friends will remark: “But you can sleep as many hours as you want.” Oh yeah? You will find that you wake up a lot – first of all for those bathroom trips, but also because things hurt, or you are not tired enough or for many other mysterious reasons. If you get more than about 5 hours of sleep per night – consider yourself lucky!
Books on aging tell you all sorts of things , e.g. you can enjoy great memories( perhaps), you can forget dieting( not really),you can forgive yourself (for what exactly?), you can sing in the shower( be careful not to slip and fall!), you learn to live with some pain (we all do-such is life), and live in such a way that your life is an example and inspiration for the younger generations.
The last one is interesting. The only trouble is that the younger generations are NOT interested in your example. They know it all! They are too busy living their own lives. rushing here and there, “finding” themselves, repeating your mistakes, re-inventing the wheel, wasting money and time. It may be different in other civilizations, but it is this way in the good old USA. Nobody is interested in what you had experienced and in what you have to say or offer. If you are not good-looking or handsome, and have some physical disability- they assume that you must also be mentally deficient and that you know nothing.
They do not want to spend too much time with you- you remind them of the fact that one day they will be where you are now and that life will come to an end.
We proclaim that we want liberty and justice for ALL. Does the “all” also include the older citizens, or are they about as useful as an old shoe that needs to be kicked into the gutter?
So what do we oldsters really want and need? Strangely enough – the same things that any human being needs. We are the same people even though we look different on the outside. We want reasonably good health. We should remind ourselves to be grateful for all those parts of the body that still work! We need the basics like shelter, food, some clothes, enough money for a modest life, also family, friends, human contact and – believe it or not – we need some meaningful WORK – the one thing we wanted to be rid of by retiring. By work I mean finding something useful to do for others, for humanity besides just for ourselves.
Not all of us older folks are old-fashioned- there are values in our society that were there from the beginning and that are still valid. From you younger folks we need some understanding, patience and kindness. If we need some help from anyone, we will ask for it. Do not insist on “helping” us after we had declined help. It is insulting. Real help is giving of yourself. We do not need “things”– we have enough junk already. Give freely, not with gnashing of teeth. Your reward should be the joy of giving. We know how it felt to be your age. But you have no clue how it feels to be 70 and older. You do NOT know everything and you are NOT always right. It does not matter! It is o. k. to be wrong sometimes – it makes you human. You will still be loved even if you mess up!
We all need peace of mind and freedom to DO and to BE. We need to be left alone unless we specifically ask for your help or opinion. We DO NOT need your criticism, judgment or threats of punishment. Leave those things to God. They belong to him.
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