“How old is he/she?” I usually ask that whenever someone laments about how difficult it is to deal with the elderly. It can be a parent, aunt, uncle, neighbor, friend or maybe just someone they encountered.
I have just turned 46, and I’m not ashamed to say that I can already feel the difference—how the years of work, fatigue, lack of sleep and continuous learning while raising children have taken their toll on my body.
Then I think of my own mom. What more her, now that she is in her 80s? I cannot speak for everyone because we have different situations in our lives, but I hope what I am about to say can lessen the puzzling thoughts we have about our elderly.
If you own a new car and have driven it for some time, eventually it will have electrical and mechanical problems. But having it fixed will not be as big a problem, compared to if you were driving an old model. Old cars have gone through more wear and tear.
In my own mom’s shoes
In the human context, the elderly go through physical and psychological changes that are far more difficult than what we experience in adulthood. We know how it feels to be a young teenager or adult, but we don’t know exactly how it is to be 60 or above. Trying my best to put myself in my own mom’s shoes, this is what I think she would tell us.
“My son and my daughter, I now truly know how it is to get old. I feel that my body is not as strong as it was even just five years ago. Half the time, I cannot understand why I get irritable or angry at the slightest things. But at times, it is also because I am not able to move as much as I want. I am not able to be part of your life as much as I want to.
“The way I think, and the way my body is getting weary by the day, is quite frustrating for me. As people get older, not only does the body start breaking down, but our brain’s batteries start running out, too. That means we can’t think as quickly as you can, or perform tasks as easily as we did before. When you tell me how forgetful I am, I already know that.
“I’m surprised that I keep telling you the same stories over and over again. But I simply don’t remember telling them to you the last time. And besides, they are the best that my memory can still hold.
“I’m sorry if I keep asking you to repeat what you said, because my ears are also not functioning as well anymore. Believe me, I don’t want these things to happen, but they are happening.
“I’m sorry if you insist that I am meddling in your life—the decisions you make or how you raise my grandchildren. It’s just that my memories of you when you were young come back to me more often than I imagined. And for some reason, I can’t seem to stop looking at you as the child I always held in my arms.
“My body and mind may have aged, but my spirit has not, so do know that I am trying my best to control what is happening to me. I still want you to see the strong, independent person you knew when you were young.
To the rescue
“The times I’m helpless, and you come to the rescue, are hard for me, too, because I know you have to squeeze in the time to do it. So I’d rather not tell you what is happening to me, because I haven’t fully understood it myself, and don’t want to add to your stress. Maybe that’s why I end up irritable in the first place.
“One day, I hope to remember all the names and how the gadgets work, and even recognize that I’m straying far from the topic we’re talking about. All I ask is for you to be tolerant of me, even laugh with me when it happens, and remember that I don’t want to hurt you. I never would.
“My love for you has never changed, and I am very proud of you. I know you have a million things on your mind, so I do not want to be a burden to you. I love you even more now, seeing you having children of your own or bravely facing the difficulties that life poses.
“I just wanted to let you know all this. And even if I am not as productive as I was in my early years, I still have challenges to face, too. What makes it harder is that I know my batteries may be running out sooner than yours.”
Talks about our children being the future generation is already a household topic. We do our best to understand what is going on in their minds and bodies as they grow. However, it must be said that the generation who lived before us also deserves attention.
By this time, we might be thinking how difficult they are to live and communicate with and understand, how hard it is to keep up with their so-called demands. But that’s part of being human, because we tend to see everything from just our perspective. We live on assumptions, and overlook the facts.
I know we’re all busy thinking of how to survive, but honestly, we wouldn’t want to regret not being able to make them happy, too. So think of what they might have wanted to say to us; then we can start over and change for the better, or at least do our best.
We cannot expect the elderly to think the way we do, the same way we should not demand that children follow through on everything we tell them. As we empower ourselves, we shouldn’t cast them aside.
It’s not easy, but maybe we should do some more growing up. And don’t forget—we’re all on our way there, too.