Maltreatment of the Aged

How do we abuse ye? Let me count the ways.

Not only are the aged maltreated in the disgracefully common ways we read about in the news – nursing home death due to neglect; family cashed social security checks while elderly recipient went unfed – many of our elderly are ignored, ridiculed and avoided. Even those who live in the bosom of a loving family face ungraciousness in the public square.

Being gray-haired seems to be a signpost for negative judgment. There is a pervasive atmosphere in our society that their usefulness is over, they don’t have anything to contribute – to anybody – and they have no history. How they lived their lives is of no consequence and has no influence in these modern times. Not only that but their opinions and beliefs are not welcome, the consensus being their contribution would be antiquated and does not apply today. “We know better.” Those people fear and hate the rules their elders bring to them. The new century is suffering for lack of knowledge.

Lives of the aged are still vibrant and useful. Most of them are still contributing to society, to the arts, to their families, and to world concerns. And when the time comes when they can no longer manage for themselves, it is incumbent upon others more physically capable to treat them with respect and decency to the end of their lives.

In conversation with a thirty-something female, I was surprised at how ignorant she was to the fact that her own aged relative had a past of worth. In preparation for a party, I asked the female, “How would your aunt like her card to be addressed?”

“Oh, just Margerie Powers.” (name invented)

“Do you mean she was never married?”

“What? No. She was married.”

“Well, then. Doesn’t she prefer Mrs. as a title on her mail?”

“Oh, no. Her husband died twenty years ago. It was so long ago it doesn’t matter. She is just Margerie Powers.”

I was stunned at this woman’s insensitivity; how she dehumanized Margerie. And it DOES matter. The title Mrs. denotes a past life of love-making and loving someone, of having once “belonged” to someone, to a family unit. Mrs. is part of her identity and does not pass away because the spouse has predeceased her. And just by a passing of the years, a relative, with a shrug of thoughtless shoulders, denied the woman the history and life and soul of her past. How much less do certain strangers think of the woman or the elderly in general?

This is not a small thing. It is indicative of the willing lack of connection by the young toward the old and can’t be construed as coming from the aspect of “the selfishness of youth.”  By thirty-something there should be signs of maturity.

But, no. Simply acquiring years does not lend understanding of the quality of life of those who are many years older. Maturity is not only a result of accumulated life experiences, but a state of learning, a level of achievement in the brain. How did this thirty-something miss that education? Her educators, family members, and societal mores have failed to teach respect of, compassion for and value of our elders. She isn’t even aware of the gap in her understanding. We don’t miss what we have never known.

We are falling into a dismal, and dangerous, environment of “only the strong survive” and “you’re on your own!” A level of self-centeredness dominates like never before. It is more important to emulate a jailed celebrity and own that designer purse than to give a graceful thought to the builders of our world. “I’m in it for me” may as well be emblazoned across their foreheads. Generational behavior will devolve even more if that pattern is not reversed.

In eastern thought, there are tears at a child’s birth and celebration at death:  tears for the future miseries the child will endure and joy at the release of the person’s spirit beyond the suffering on this worldly plane. In the intervening years, they revere their elders. They are recognized as experienced, having traveled more miles along the same path the younger ones will follow, are respected as knowledgeable and are considered sources of wisdom.

The more any society descends into uncivilness, insensitivity and narcissism, the more I reflect at the birth of a child. He is being born into a time of self-aggrandizement. What will he learn? And today, his very birth is dubious – reverse ageism to the nth degree.

Are you becoming aware and taking action to reverse the downward slide by teaching to others the value of all those who have gone before them?

The next time you have the urge to be short-tempered with Grandma or want to snort at Grandpa’s reflections, stop! Be gentle towards her. Lend an ear to him. They deserve to be appreciated for their humanity and the gifts they bring us. You will benefit from exercising restraint and kindness. You will learn something.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hotshot bald cop
    Aug 30, 2011 @ 13:05:39

    My thoughts exactly!

    Reply

  2. hotshot bald cop
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 06:38:31

    Thank you for a great post.

    Reply

  3. asparaguscutterClyde h Stagner
    Sep 01, 2011 @ 18:02:41

    Such was the way of Hitler. Our Veterans who saved the US from Hitler are now our elders and the least they deserve is courtesy and wholesome food on their plates in a cizy room with a cot and blanket. Thank you men of your and now!

    Reply

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