Being old is no crime

Published On: January 20, 2018 12:47 AM NPT By: Usha Pokharel

With passage of time perceptions change, situations change and with that, life takes a different course

The way our society considers elderly is gradually changing. Elderly abuse is slowly increasing. That bothers me quite a bit, and one day the question ‘is being old a crime?’ popped up in my mind.   Don’t be surprised. I have seen too many elderly people being abused. Many of them are struggling to survive.

For them end of winter is the beginning of a new life till the next winter. Some of you might be thinking ‘I’m in my mid-thirties, and I am confident I can imagine my way into old age. How hard could it be, really?’ 

You might be surprised when somewhere along the way things go wrong and you are at the receiving end. I acknowledge the fact that there are people who are super nice to elderly people. Other day I came across a short video of a medical doctor dealing with an old lady on Facebook.  He sure was an angel.  He had enough patience to keep talking to an old lady about 90 years while he checked her. She kept forgetting and he kept repeating.  This brought me back to my own house with my mother in law of 95 years and my father 92.  

I quite understood the doctor’s dilemma of communicating with older folks.  It is but natural for them to forget things. Combine that with loss of hearing and you have one noisy house with you shouting all the time just to communicate.  

When we should be constantly working to make their lives easy, some think of elderly as a burden.

When I communicate with them, my neighbors will hear me before my folks do and I don’t mind that.  My only hope is that they don’t consider me rude for speaking loudly and constantly repeating the same thing over and over.   What’s amazing is that they forget things recently said but remember events from older times. I don’t mind listening to things they say thousand times.  That is their way of keeping their memories with them.   On my part I just try to keep them engaged, so they don’t forget even that shred of memory.  

Living with memories 
When you get old, memories are all you got.  Most would have lost their life partner.  If we too neglect them they have no one to call their own.  Life is cruel.  We feel we will remain in same condition forever but unfortunately we all are spiraling gradually to a state that we cannot come out of ever: being old, until we die.  That is the law of nature and a full circle of life.  

From nothing to nothing, birth, childhood, adolescence, midlife and old age are all passage of time leading to nothing after death.  Some of you must be thinking why this philosophy?  Well, the simple reason is we all tend to forget what our final destination is and become selfish. 

With passage of time perceptions change, situations change and with that, life takes a different course. It is, absolutely, necessary to gradually change our own perception towards life as well.  The thought of aging as a beautiful and graceful process initially is well and good, but with each passing year, aging becomes progressively ugly, unless we keep adjusting our understanding of aging. With each year the roles gradually start reversing. In no time at all those who cared for us are the ones who we have to care for.

We never imagine that one day we will have such a situation at hand. We always believe our elders will remain the same, forever.  We are so emotionally distracted the reality of their aging never even crosses our mind.  I never imagined that I would be taking care of the people who took care of me.

It’s a unique situation where the elderly, our role models, too feel that they will always remain the same. They have been so busy taking care of us that they failed to listen to their bodies constantly reminding them that they are not the same, they are changing.

Pretty soon they might not be able to perform routines that they called normal without help.  Their stubbornness to keep attempting to perform the same activities as before but failing to do so creates uncomfortable situations.  These elderly also do not listen to advice meant for their own benefit. This makes life difficult for themselves and those who care for them.  Our job as caretakers is to understand that these people have become like little kids.  

I keep saying that old age is reversal of age towards becoming a child again with a difference of the body size way bigger than that of a child.  The only thing that does not change is their feeling of the responsibility for their children.  They are the selfless ones who have been so busy making life easier for us, they never thought of themselves or about their comfort. Sacrificing and caring for their children’s comfort and wellbeing become a habit for them. That is hard to change even in old age. 

At some point, the aging process catches up and one fine morning they fail to do things they have been doing all along. We are no exception. We want to think we are exceptional and that age will not have an impact on us.

Do not neglect 
Such thinking results in neglecting our elderly.  At a time when we should be constantly thinking of making life easier for them, some people think of them as a burden and leave them to fend for themselves at elderly homes. Some might even think spending on elderly is a waste of time and resources. My question is, ‘how do you know how long a person will live?’

According to astrology a person’s birth chart is made considering a person’s life as 120 years. So it is always a good idea to keep our elderly happy, get them medically treated, and in good health, considering that the person might live to be 120 and that healthy life is much better than being sick and dependent for both the parties: the ones being cared for and the caretakers. 

The first thing that came to my mind as the temperatures declined recently were that the old people are going to have a hard time.  Some will die because of the cold in the old age homes without heating mechanism. Life as such is very difficult for the elderly.  If it is a crime to be old then pretty soon we too will be criminals just by being old. Just because we are unwilling to acknowledge that we too are going to get old soon does not prevent us from getting old.

My biggest worry is the tendency to take things for granted to the point of negligence. We either overlook or take too long to plan for advanced years. It is usually a crisis such as a fall, sudden illness or some other precipitating event that wakes us up to the reality. Unfortunately, by that time, it is often too late to do anything. 

I am not trying to make people emotional. Rather a sudden turn of events in my family forced me to rethink as to what I can do to make life easier for the elderly in my family. Did I, perchance, overreact to their constant forgetfulness; their lack of strength; their stubbornness; their repetition of old events again and again or so other things that elderly are prone to doing?

Be helpful 
I believe we need to have enough patience and resolve to be helpful. Our thoughts and actions are going to make a difference in their lives. Just keep in mind the younger generation is watching us and taking notes of our actions. 

Sure enough, they will learn from us and that learning will be directed at us sooner rather than later, when we stand on that pedestal of old age ourselves. Give it a thought, and make a pledge that you will make life comfortable for your elderly at home. Check and see if they have enough warm clothes, that their room is warm enough and they have easy access to toilet. Just making sure of these things will bring a smile on their faces and you will be blessed.  This winter give it a thought, will you?

The author is an educationist and author of several children’s books

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