Generation after generation, time brings challenges for the eldest of the generation. My 90 year old father came to stay with me recently and reminded me once again of the challenges the elderly face. It made me think about what it must be like for them. Can you imagine when most of your life is behind you, instead of in front of you? When most of your friends and siblings have passed away? When you see places that in the past were so familiar to you, and now are all so different and changed? When it is long past the time for dreams or ambitions? What else do they have, but to look back? We need to remember this when listening to stories we’ve heard them tell over and over. It is hard, but we need to be compassionate when we know that driving past a familiar place with them, will bring the stories of what they did there and how much it has changed. Their minds are filled with memories. Memories, good and bad. Memories of friends, family, love and lost loves. Memories of work, lost possessions, and past injuries. How much do they really have to look forward to on this earth? Sickness, hospital stays, maybe more funerals of others? Hopefully not. Maybe the best they hope for is to die peacefully in their sleep. I’m not sure what goes through their heads.
It will take much patience trying to explain new things that is hard for them to comprehend, such as technology. I know personally for me, technology seems to have advanced at a tremendous speed that I can’t seem to keep up with. Just when I think I have the “know how” of something technical, it changes and the thing I knew, becomes obsolete! Can you imagine what it must be like to have lived during a time when your house was heated by a wood stove and there were no TVs and now trying to use a cell phone? It’s hard enough when you can’t see well, or hear well, and then your trying to figure out which button to push just to get the key board up on the screen. Let alone, how to text!
We get frustrated when we have misplaced our keys. Can you imagine every time you go out, having to make sure you have your glasses, hearing aid, teeth, cane/walker and if your lucky, a wallet? If you remember all that and forget your phone, o well! It helps to have a sense of humor. “Dad, we’re going out to lunch, do you have your teeth in?” He smiles a big toothy grin. “Good, because I can share my glasses, but not my teeth!” It’s wonderful when we can make them laugh. They really need that as much as we do.
When someone has lived as long as my father has, they invariably have some wisdom that we don’t. Taking the time to really listen can be a benefit to us as well as helping them feel valued. They have been through situations that we have not been through. Even if they did not handle the situation as well as they should have, we can learn through that too. Sometimes we may get a nugget of wisdom that we needed to hear. Sometimes hearing just how hard things were for some people in the past, put things in perspective for us. Are we taking some things for granted? Do we realize the convenience of things we have that they did not have? My father tells a story of having to rake out the poured cement for his basement floor quickly before it hardened. My mother had to help also, so it was spread quick enough. He has many other stories like this too.
It also helps us evaluate ourselves. Are we being as forgiving as we need to be? Are we going to become bitter from something that happened decades ago? Or will we let it go? Do we have a hobby that will keep us interested in something when we are old? Or a hobby to keep us busy? My dad always loved to swim. He was a scuba diver when he was younger. I took him swimming the other day and he actually dove off the diving board at 90 years old! Talk about being young at heart! He also carves wood for a hobby. He likes to carve birds and walking sticks. He has many interesting walking sticks with animals and flowers carved on them. People love to compliment him on his walking sticks. That makes me proud of him. It also makes me happy for him, that he still has something he likes to do, that keeps him busy. It is easy to get annoyed with older people sometimes. Older people may seem like they want attention or compliments on something they have done. Is there really anything wrong with that? Don’t we all long to know we are valued? Be sure to tell them, “you’ve done good”. If there are mistakes they’ve made, that is between them and God. Only God can judge their heart. We need to make sure they are treated with dignity and honor. After all, that’s how we will want to be treated when we are old, right?