Friday, October 21, 2011

Growing old and deserving to be treated with respect

It's difficult at times to convince yourself that what is happening around you, is actually for the best. You might get slapped down and trodden on, by people who you think really care about you, and you tend to blame yourself.

And sometimes the blame is deserved, but quite often not. It seems to me that there is a growing lack of courtesy and respect shown towards older people these days. Is it my imagination? Has it always been so? 

I don't think so. And I base this statement on what I have seen happen around me, not only within my own family, and extended family, but many others, over the years. In our family parents and grandparents all shared in the dignity of being considered important and worthy of respect, in both thought as well as speech by all members of the family, and even more especially by neighbours and the society in which they moved.

Today people up to and around 40 and 50 years of age, tend to "look down" on older folk, as though within their wrinkles and greying hair and slower painful steps, they've managed to lose all their intelligence! They also take the attitude that older people don't have "feelings" anymore and can't be hurt or offended by inappropriate attitudes or behaviour.  Sometimes their exasperation is extreme.

In different cultures around the world, older members within families and society were, and in many cases still are, seen to be the "wise ones". They are sought out to advise, and to give encouragement, to the younger members of family, based on their experience and knowledge of the world. Even if that knowledge only revolves around their home-life, and nearby neighborhood or community. 

Sadly there are a lot of people today who are never thought about by their families. They are left, isolated, and forgotten. Others are more fortunate enough in having the security of a home and financial backing. Today one seldom sees or hears of older parents or relations living within the warmth of the family circle. 

The speed and extent of the building of "retirement villages" has even surprised the developers/investors. Many loving and gracious elderly parents (even both sets of parents - that is parents and parents-in-law) who remain mobile and independent (i.e. not expecting to take precedence over other family members, are content to be part of the family when it is convenient for all to mingle and get together. It keeps them young! 

Yes, "retirement villages" are a viable and sensible option for thousands of "retirees" - if they prefer to be totally independent, and can afford to be, that is. So many men and women find themselves at the time their lives when they should be enjoying themselves, no fault of their own, to be almost penniless. Not every one can call upon the proceeds of "Superannuation" to provide financial security in purchasing a home unit within a "village" and being able to carry-on in a life-style that they have chosen or prefer.

Yet as people in the western world have become more affluent during past decades, the threat of a "recession" brings with it all sorts of stresses about where to live and how to afford to live, even very simply. And this applies more specifically to those who, as said earlier, have no financial security upon which to draw upon.

And this brings me back to what I said at first. being ignored, slapped down and trodden on. Because I don't like seeing older people treated with a total disregard for their feelings. I don't like seeing them ridiculed, and bullied, and spoken to as though they are naughty children. They deserve the right to be able to stand with head held high, and to be given the respect that their age and wisdom and experience demands.

And because this is a long "post", I can't but help add my observations of many younger women (in their teens and 20s etc) who display the old-fashioned courtesies and respect that older people so earnestly desire.   Is it perhaps that those in their 40s and 50s are so busy with life that they can't or don't want to spend time with their elders and that the younger people have seen the void and actually taken steps to fill that void?   I'd like to think so. 

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