“At what age do you consider someone old?” This question was posed one time at the dinner table. The answers varied greatly, from the 7 year old saying 20, to the middle children saying 50-60, to my answer of 70-75. What would you say?
My mom has this soapbox about how old men are often ignored, but always have some story, and often they are war tales. You know, everyone loves Si. He’s an old man who always has a “‘Nam” story ready to be told. Why is that we listen to Si’s crazy stories, regardless of their validity, but we don’t ever listen to the tales that the men in our community have to tell?
I have this recent thing about old people, I supposed you could call it a soapbox. I’m not sure why I have been paying so much attention to the gray-haired folks around me lately, but something I have noticed is that they typically get treated like they are 5. It’s sad. They have lived a much longer life than those who are treating them so. Yes, they may have Dementia, a broken hip or poor vision. We think of them as living in a nursing home, putting together puzzles and eating jello or sitting in an old church wearing big hats and perfume that is overwhelming and singing hymns. Some are, but have you ever seen a group of elderly woman sitting in Schlotzky’s playing Bridge and talking about burping and farting? I have. Have you ever listened to the old men in McDonald’s eating breakfast, talking about their farms and gossiping about their wives? I have. Have you ever ran into an 80 something year old in the restroom joking about the stupid paper towel dispenser? I have. These people have personality. They are not helpless babes. They have lived a life! And more of a worthwhile life than we have.
Is it possible we could treat them as we treat those who are 50 years younger? In fact, could we go beyond that and treat them better? After all, they are you. They were once your age. Treat them the way you want people to treat them when you are putting puzzles together in the nursing home while eating jello. Maybe we can change the way the world sees “old people.”