Posts Tagged: Fear old age

Disrespect for the elderly

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!”
Disrespect old 2From the Bible of course, 2 Kings 2.23, and showing that kids from time immemorial have thought that anyone over 35 is at death’s door and therefore of little value, and that disrespect for the elderly is inherent to the human race. Rather than the bears Elisha called out of the forest to deal with them, those dudes from Bethel would no doubt have benefitted from some 21st century technology, the state-of-the-art ‘ageing suit’ to be precise, tested in hospitals in the north of England to help everyone from porters to medics understand what it is to be someone of great age. Using an elaborate combination of pads, weights, goggles and ear covers, its aim is to induce empathy by mimicking a wide range of age-related problems such poor vision, hearing loss, shuffling and hand tremors that make you drop your cup of tea.
Disrespect old 3According to the German manufacturers of the ‘Gerontologic Test Suit’, wearing it encourages compassion and is useful for those in the health service inclined to believe old people are just having a laugh. The press has joked that to get the full effect the wearer should also be exposed to a young health worker screaming their first name – and getting it wrong – into their ears and parking them in front of an inane sitcom intent on making jokes about incontinence and the sex lives of the over 70s, then be bombarded with phone calls from call centres.
The reason our culture deifies youth is because it fears old age. Like the bully who is deep down a coward, the derider of the old is trying to flee a fate he or she actually dreads. This site does not deify youth, but celebrates eternal youthfulness as a real possibility that appears on the horizon when we stop fearing the passing of the years.
Disrespect old 5Financial and physical abuse are the most blatant forms of disrespect, but negative attitudes towards the old are also a form of abuse. Almost all of us have expressed cliché-ed views of older people at some time in our lives – assumptions such as their lives are boring, that they are out of touch, don’t know what the internet is for, only listen to weird band music and laugh at lame, outdated jokes. Few people take the time to relate to them as potential friends, and yet it is easy to ask questions about their lives, their spiritual and political beliefs, how society has changed, whether they feel safe out and if they also felt a moment of shock when they first realised they were the oldest person in the room, something that may already be happening to us. Even if the older person is dependent, including them in decisions and asking for advice (never giving it unsolicited) is a way of treating them with respect and dignity. Disrespect for the old leads to low self-esteem when we get there ourselves. Where you tread, I too am headed.
Disrespect old 4Something we can do right away is start noticing the people around who are older than we are. Taking an interest in their daily routines and how they contribute to society can be an eye-opener. A good opening question to ask them is what kind of clothes they used to wear when they were young, or how they spent their Sundays. New opportunities often open up to those who no longer have to drag themselves into work every day, and living at a slower pace allows more time for reflection on what is going on in the world, and a sense of perspective about how to live. The regrets of the old are precious nuggets of wisdom we can live by today, and the joys they have can take away our fears, since there are many aspects of renewal after a life spent working or looking after others, when the world opens to us fully in all its splendour. Life often gets better and better. Many people say the best decade of their lives is the one they are currently experiencing.
Although Staying Ageless does not recommend trying out the Gerontologic Test Suit (because of the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy – see Expectations), displaying impatience, disrespect and disdain of those suffering from the problems age can bring can send a poisonous message of fear to our subconscious. Fear of the future does not promote agelessness. Living in the present in an attitude of acceptance of those around us does.

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