On our way back from the coast today, Kenton and I were discussing the way the elderly are treated in various countries that we have visited or lived in. Now I know, the definition of when one becomes “elderly” is not always clear – but I guess you know it when you reach it!
I remember my mother telling me that one of the worst things about getting old was that people treat you like you’re invisible. They don’t look at you when you pass them on the sidewalk. They don’t listen to you when you speak.
When did this happen? The elderly in all societies used to be valued for their wealth of experiences; wisdom that can only be gained by years of living through the things that life throws at you.
Now? No one cares about experience. And who wants to listen to an old person, right? They might just tell you that life is about more than the latest cell phone or car. They might tell you that money is fleeting, and it’s people that count. They might just tell you a few uncomfortable truths. And we don’t want that, do we?
In the rush to stay forever young by having botox and wearing the latest jeans, we have decided not to get old. No, not us! So anyone who actually is old just makes us realize that one day we will be there, too – botox notwithstanding!
In some countries still, the elders are valued. Certainly they are in Spain – there are very, very few living facilities for the elderly. No one moves their mother out to a ‘home’ – they move them into their home.
And you still see young men and women (even teenagers) walking arm in arm with their grandmother or grandfather down the street. Having a chat, listening and being listened to, as only a grandparent can.
In my opinion, societies that have lost that thread have lost much more than they think – and they will never get it back.