Saturday, 16 February 2013

Old People: Why We Need 'Em

We give ourselves to our youth – through meticulous parenting, with the millions spent on their education each year, in the organizations dedicated to eradicating the poverty, suffering and abuse of our little ones; all good endeavours indeed. But what about the elderly?

The big questions remain in many a North American family: who will take care of our elders after they cannot take care of themselves? What is to be done with our aging population, as the ‘baby boomers’ retire en masse and consider full time care facilities (most of which are already overflowing)? Moreover, who will stand up to support these wrinkled people? Not droves of us, as we so clearly see with those who aid the other side of the age spectrum. It is the absurd conundrum of an ignored demographic – one that has the potential to change our harmful ways…If only we would listen.

Old people playing video games and whatnot.
Old people are our history in the flesh – nay, temples of infinite wisdom that we so commonly turn our backs to, discharge as a bunch of outdated prudes who have fallen into the so called ‘generation gap’. All the while we repeat our mistakes as if completely blind to the lessons waiting to be learned from yesteryear. We seek answers to all of life’s questions yet fail to consult those who have done the most living. These are the people who are most in touch with the past, who have beautiful stories of an era behind us, of an age we only romanticise as being ‘simpler’; more sophisticated and dusted with an air of all-together-ness. We are so terribly far from the truth but too stubborn and selfish to admit this to ourselves, never mind other people.

Being wrapped up in the present doesn’t have to mean we forget where we came from. Everyone has roots; everyone was created from a lineage that survived the circumstances which led to their existence – your existence. We are bound to this history whether we know it or not – it lives in our blood and in the people who are still around to tell you about it. Other cultures feel it rightfully appropriate to respect and revere their elders as ‘repositories of cultural and philosophical knowledge’; the Cree (one of the largest groups of First Nations/Native Americans in North America) rely on these members to pass down wisdom and stories  - the backbone of their culture – to the younger populace. West African tribes such as the Ogoni people of Nigeria or the Benga in Guinea rely heavily on their elders as spiritual protectors and for assistance in raising children.

We must end the ignorance of those who have lived a life we claim we know everything about yet still struggle for harmony. The oldest among us have the capacity to help us find meaning, direction and even happiness, so why do we shun them into the corners as mere social and moral responsibilities? We can locate ourselves within those who have lived long before us – all we have to do is slow down and pay attention.

Happy 100th Birthday to the beautiful Vera Nicholson!
Sending love to you, my dear, for making the world a much brighter place to live in.

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