Posted in Respect, Society

The ‘Invisibility’ of Old People

If it’s good enough for Ghandi, then maybe we should be touching Grandma’s feet, too?

I’m pretty sure it was legendary peace activist Mahatma Ghandi, possibly during one of his political passive-resistance ‘sit-ins’, who declared that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.

But then, he would.

Smug in the knowledge that his beloved India already boasted a solid track record in the unconditional caring of it’s ageing population, he would have been totally confident bandying about such bold and impassioned statements.

In a country where taking care of one’s elderly parents in order to preserve sacred family values is not only tradition, it’s actually considered fundamental to society as a whole.

In fact, so great is the esteem and reverence bestowed upon India’s elders, that youngsters are expected to literally bow down and touch the feet of their treasured grandparents as the ultimate display of respect and adoration.

Eeek!  FEET?

TOUCH ME
TOUCH ME
TOUCH ME

The Chinese too, stay loving and loyal to their older family members by keeping them close, trusting in their vast spiritual wisdom and believing that great fortune will follow them and their household, because they are doing so.

Greeks and Italians also maintain endeared customs where elders demand intense respect from their offspring – including blessings that are sought from, and then held in the highest of regard. With several generations of one family all co-habiting, co-parenting (and frequently co-feasting on their magnificent cultural banquets) under the one, usually fairly large roof.

All the time sharing and caring galore for beloved Nonnie and Poppa – it’s just the way it is; the way it always has been. And not once are the words ‘Nursing Home’ or ‘Aged-Care facility’ considered… nor even dared be mentioned.

You look after your own and it’s a beautiful thing.

Becoming OLD and ‘being elderly’ as an Australian however, has up ’til recent times, been a whole different kettle of fish!

Not that we don’t care about the older adults in our lives (admittedly though, there’d be little chance of any feet-touching action)… and it’s not that we don’t WANT to look after dear old Mum and Dad when they can no longer manage on their own.

But with our frantic materialistic lifestyles, we fair dinkum Aussies barely have time to look after our kids, let alone take on care and responsibility of ‘the Olds’ as well. Having to sometimes move away from our home-towns to go where the money is (the hole for a new swimming pool won’t dig itself, you know) we abandon our ageing parents as we strive for bigger and better.

The once close-knit family dynamic is left in tatters and sadly, as our children grow up with little or no interaction with their grandparents (does Skype really count?) it means even less understanding of the issues older people face existing in today’s frenzied modern world.

BUT, thanks to an outstanding healthcare system and an unprecedented change (albeit, gradual) in attitudes toward ageing in general, there is a revolutionary new emphasis on embracing one’s Golden years. Older generations can now look forward to a potentially long, joyful and productive retirement with due diligence placed on seniors having rights, dignity and an invigorating abundance of empowerment HOORAY!

Yet, should we worry that our youth think it still acceptable to treat mature adults in a dismissive and disparaging way?

That our seniors, because they are retired from the workforce and are all (supposedly) sitting about idle and ‘being frail’, clearly can’t have creditable opinions and therefore have little to contribute to society anymore?

Well, today… as I stood waiting in the cashier’s queue of a large Electrical, IT & Furniture store (can we say Harvey Norman out loud?) I discovered all might not be as hopeless as we once might have presumed.

Amid the din and techno-bustle, I watched as a man of advanced years with white hair and rosy cheeks, walked tentatively into the shop… only to come to an abrupt halt.   I knew immediately what would most surely be going through this nervous bloke’s mind.

“Crikey… where do I start?”

Crowded shops – a nightmare at any age!

To be honest it was pretty similar to what I’d thought when I’d charged in earlier. Being one of these enormous retail outlets it’s always daunting until you get your bearings, as well we know.

Thankfully when I’d arrived, I was greeted immediately by an efficient middle-aged-ish customer services lady labelled ‘Brenda’, who duly pointed me in the required direction thereby saving me from a lot of time-wastery and roaming about.

Brenda, however, was noticeably absent in coming to the aid of this gentleman. 

Still hovering in her official capacity at the entrance, directing customers, dispatching them off to the relevant departments… I watched as she quite literally favoured others coming in, over helping him.

And STILL he stood there!

Was she blind? How could she not see him? Surely, she wasn’t outright ignoring this lovely misplaced chap on purpose? For goodness sake… it was like he was The Invisible Man!

OK, so being that I work in Aged-care and am used to attending to the whims of my elderly clients on a daily basis, you might argue that perhaps I’m just overly-sensitive to this type of carry-on.

Call it what you like, NEGLECT IS STILL NEGLECT!

And regardless of age, it was just wrong that anybody should be treated in such a blatantly disrespectful manner. Such a calm unassuming man… on behalf of all the rotten Brendas out there, I felt utterly pissed off ashamed.

By this stage, too, the poor guy was really getting jostled about. Customers were pushing past him with their large parcels and important busy lives. Finally, as I contemplated the ridiculous logistics of leap-frogging over the counter to go help this now visibly shaken senior, low and behold…a zippy young shop assistant guy appeared.

Fun (NOT).

I braced myself, dreading what awfulness might come from this juvenile whipper-snapper’s mouth. Would there be yet more disinterest, some degrading comments… in an equally degrading and patronising tone?

Or perhaps a reprimand for causing congestion on the shop floor?  Indeed, if Big Bad Brenda had trained him – he was doomed!

Blow me down, ‘Arden’ (as per name badge), turned out to be the loveliest, most patient and caring lad you could ever have wished for!  Upon touching the old boy gently on his arm so as not to give him a fright, Arden tactfully drew him away from the main thoroughfare and into the safety of the near-empty kitchen appliance aisle.

Looking him right in the eyes and talking directly to him, Arden was giving this most relieved pensioner his fabulously full attention!  And after asking how ‘Sir’ was, suggested that he might like to sit down?

Oh, it was just wonderful to see – I could have cried!

And as I watched them chatting away together and joking about last weekend’s crappy football results… I felt my faith in humanity (and young peeps everywhere) had been restored.

Hooray for you, Arden!   Maybe there’s hope for us all yet.

Indeed, if Mr Ghandi had been watching on from behind the row of chrome toasters and stupidly over-priced food mixers, I reckon without question, he would have been most peacefully and passively… chuffed to bits!

So, you’re saying it’s not all about ME then?

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers, Dollie


Posted in Aged Care, Working with Elderly

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’

Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.

A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME

(Originally ‘Crabbit Old Woman’ by Phyllis McCormack (1966); adapted by Dave Griffith)

Reflections…

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie