Throw-Away Culture

I was commenting on a buddy’s blog the other day. He wrote about the sorry state of affairs of residents in “old folks homes.” He was referencing the difference between “residents” and “inmates,” and stated that it was his perception (shared by others) that a home for older people is more of a restraining facility, with many restrictions and fixed times for activities. He concluded by stating that living in such a facility is living the life of an “inmate.”

This is what I wrote in my blog comment to him:

I have befriended hundreds of older people and can relate to what you are describing. My observation is that while a few older people are childless, for the most part, older people who have had children no longer receive much attention from their offspring. The older parents are left to rot; to be cared for by others.

It hurts me so much when I see the bright smile and glow on the face of a senior whose home I visit — perhaps to repair a squeaky door, compute a tax return, or to take her out grocery shopping — to know that often my brief visit is the only younger person he has seen all day, all week, or in a month.

It just galls me that older people are abandoned, left to being cared for by facilities such as “old folks homes,” nursing homes, assisted living centers, or the like. Sure, some of the older people need more assistance with daily living (bathing, eating, taking meds on schedule) than others. But they should never be left to rot in abandonment. Children who haven’t said as much as “boo” to their parent, or who have not visited in years, should be ashamed.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… you’re “busy” raising children, working, and dealing with the hassles of daily life. I’m busy too and still make time in my schedule to take some older people grocery shopping, drop in to pay a visit, do some light home repairs, or whatever. Don’t give me “I’m busy” … it doesn’t wash. As they say, if you want something done right, give it to a busy person. The right thing to do is to pay attention to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older friends.

In the U.S., we have too much of a “throw-away” culture. I get incensed when we throw away our elders. That is perhaps why I volunteer so much, and care so much. After all — soon enough — I will be one of them.

I admire people, like BBA and some other guys I know, who have totally reordered their lives to care for elderly parents as they have aged and need help. It is a huge inconvenience, but to tell you the truth: when you were a baby, you were not all that “convenient,” either. Love conquers all, and it works on both sides of the aging continuum.

If your parents or grandparents are alive, how lucky you are. All of mine have died; however, I have no regrets. Each of them were part of my life until they passed away, and they knew how very deeply I loved them. Go visit your elders, or give them a call. Show them that you are thinking of them. After all…

Life is short: show those you love that you love them.