Is there anything good about ageing?
I spent a week in Finland this month, with my grandmother, in an elderly home amidst woods and lakes, and I must say, there’s something about being in a home for the elderly, a stillness that should be a part of younger life too.
I don’t mean to glamorize old age (if that’s even possible). I have a tendency to prefer matters of the spirit to practical matters.
There are indeed many practical matters to old age, and many are unpleasant.
Eating is one of them.
My grandmother puts so much butter on everything, I have a feeling she would eat butter in spoonfuls if she could. When we eat, there is butter everywhere; on her chin, on the table, on the table cloth…
Harsh as it might sound, keeping my appetite when we eat can be tricky.
There are other practically hygienic qualms that come with age. Without going into too much detail, let’s remember that old people loose muscular functions.
Then there is the practical issue of poor health, and the physical and psychological effects that come with.
Still somehow, I feel that the spiritual matters outnumber the practical.
Each morning I would stand on our balcony and stare at old people walking around aimlessly. Although they were moving, it felt like looking at the negative of a photograph. Still, but alive.
I liked going for walks around the home. Firstly, because my youth seems so appreciated. It seems to make the old people happy that also a young person could enjoy a walk in their premises. Unlike most Finns, they are talkative and quick to ask, not what I’m doing at the home, but if I too am enjoying my walk ☺
Secondly, I enjoy the pace. The inevitable feeling that death is always around the corner is inappropriately comforting. Nothing can be taken for granted you see; every step is a blessing, words are exchanged sparingly, and care-fully.
I’m back in London now, and I brought back many wisdoms from the elders. Before I left, my grandmother who suffers from dementia, asked me innocently what time I would be back, and when I replied that I’d be back soon, I meant it.
I miss my old friends, and it’s not depressing, although it might sound sad.
In Nigeria, we tend to see elderly homes as a Western way of treating the elderly, but now they are becoming a feature even in African life. It’s a sensitive topic, who should care for our parents when they become to old to care for themselves, and one that ultimately varies from family to family. When I grow old I believe I would rather embrace the increasingly unusual calmness and tranquility that such a home provides.
Or, is a house full of life and laughter preferable in your opinion?
Having worked in the type home you’ve described gives me a bit of a different perspective.
You get to see the “residents” on their good days and bad…at their highest and lowest…sick and well. The continuum goes on and on…back and forth.
I would love to live at home, caring for myself once I’ve reach my golden years. If that isn’t possible, I wouldn’t dream of burdening my children and their families with caring for me.
Tuck me away nicely in one of the homes where old people go and visit me often. Biologically and chronologically speaking, role reversal between parents and children is inevitable.
My only request of my children once I’m placed there – Come to see me “soon”
How I enjoyed reading your comment.
come to see me “soon”….yes…
It is undoubtedly a heavy type of loneliness that also surround such homes. There was an old man in the same building who cried in agony all day, every day, and it broke my heart, just like it did leaving my grandmother.
I think that element of integrating young and old is so vital. We have so much to learn from the elders and they in return , can also learn from younger generations. An elderly home should encourage activities that involve younger members of the society and are mutually beneficial.
We should probably also live life with the knowledge that the “role reversal between parent and children is inevitable” and plan ahead based on this. How many of us know where our parents see themselves spending their last years? In my mind I’ve always thought that my parents will live with me when they are too old to take care of themselves, but when I think about it, I’m not sure they would really want that!
Lovely post! I love how you use three different locations across the world to discuss aging! When I get old, I think I’ll probably prefer the company of other decaying wise souls who can reminisce about the days when Usher was hot! lol I just hope my kids do their research because some of the elderly homes in America are TERRIBLE! But no one could abuse me because even at the age of 90, I’d run over any whipper snapper trying to treat me poorly! 🙂
Hahahahha,lol thanks for the humorous angle to this topic. I’d be debating you on Usher not being as hot as the young men of the future (like my grandma, who never fails to mention how fine today’s young men are :).
To ageing with wit and temper!
You are so blessed to have your grandmother with you. Mine passed on years ago. As a little girl, I would spend a week or two with the rest of my family at the home of my maternal grandparents. Their house was a wonderful, old, large, mysterious place, filled with wonderful, old, large and mysterious things. Although I was 32 when my maternal grandmother passed on, I wished I had had the opportunity to know her as an adult, for my memories of her are concentrated on those which developed during my childhood and early adolescence.
As for where I would want to be? Don’t know. Not sure. I do, however, like the peace and serenity that being in my own home provides.
Thanks…I do feel extremely blessed to have these experiences with her
Your childhood memories from your grandparents house sound so vivid, I would love to read more. Perhaps you could blog about those memories, do you think these things left an influence on the items you pick for your crib? Reading your home tips on your blog, often feels like receiving ideas that have passed on generations 🙂
It’s a blessing to have such positive memories.
FreeTalk Blog says
this matter of growing old scares me. Growing old is not bothersome for me, the scary part is not being able to be self reliant as i’m one of those very independent people. i’d rather not live that long..
but the homes provide serenity and a new outlet for competition and setting new goals like being the best at bingo or the best mini Golf champion !
We all know that given life proceeds naturally, we will grow old, and we will need to deal with the varying implications of old age. Yet, we are somehow distanced from that reality, many of us don’t think about it because it scares us. I think that like many things in life, it’s good to have a goal, a ‘how I would like to age’ mission statement in mind.
Lol being the best at bingo eh. Why not? The key must be to just enjoy the relaxation that comes with old age, no work and plenty of time for bingo, eating good food, telling kids stories they might not want to hear!
Thanks for stopping by.
You know, Ms. Afropolitan, I have thought, and on several occasions, to write a post or two re: my summertime memories of my maternal grandmother. Thank you for the interest and encouragement. 🙂
Talibah Rasheed says
I really feel sorry for older people that end up in what we call “old folks homes” and I would probably put a hit out on my children if they ever tried to put me in one of those places. I am probably older than most of you so I am very concerned about the way older people are being portrayed. If you really see aging as this horrible process, where you lose your muscular functions and end up with food on your face, you are going to be freaked out about the aging. Just because you grow older it is not inevitable that these types of things will happen to you and anyway when you say old, how old is old, ninety? My grandmother lived to be ninety five and she lived in her own home and she had all of her wits about her and was fiery until the end. She had a few health problems but these days many younger people have health problems that older adults never had and they will be blessed to get to the ripe older age of ninety-five. I have always wanted to live to be a centenarian and that means that I have to work hard to take better care of myself. I look forward to growing older and wiser and it sure beats the hell out of the alternative!!
Hmm…point noted on how older people are portrayed.
Indeed, old age does not necessarily mean ill health as in the case of my grandmother. Although even with her, the point of what I was trying to say is that despite the health issues she has, being in her environment was uplifting precisely because I tend to value the spiritual matters over practical matters.
However, as we are threefold beings of mind, body and spirit, there is no denying that if the body and/or mind is unwell then the spirit too is affected and as Roschelle pointed out, the elderly home environment is not always good.
Ill health is certainly not exclusive to the elderly, you are right in this.
I didn’t have any angst when I turned 30 and I won’t when I turn 40, 50 etc. There is no amount of youth that could replace the gift of wisdom and self knowledge that comes with age, and part of that wisdom should be to look after oneself and keep healthy.
Happy centenarian way in advance 🙂
Thanks for sharing
I loved reading this. In many ways I’m not scared of aging, I feel it is my right to age and stop being so hung up on the tragedies of youth (indesicion, insecurity, what people think of me..bla bla bla..)
One thing I’ve never had is a close relationship with my grandparents and I’ve missed it. I could never put either of my parents in a home, partly because I want to give my children a really close relationship with them. But also because I want them to be close to me, my mother especially. Whether she be strong or frail, I can’t bear the idea that my siblings or I can’t do for her.
Maybe I’ll change my mind when the time comes…who knows…
One thing I definitely agree with is that we should all make time with the older people in our lives, the things they know we cannot underestimate.
The tragedies of youth – that’s a great term.
Thanks for the reminder to spend time with older people we love, it cannot be repeated enough times.
I think ageing is an interesting topic. With each of the great age milestones, it seems that we encounter a few more of life’s tolls, and yet it also appears that gain a lot from the same life taxing us. I guess it’s a question of balance, do we gain more than we lose? Or is it the other way round? One I hear a lot is women in their 30s comparing themselves to their 20s. Undoubtably, there are some advantages to being 20 that are lost in the 30s and yet every single woman I’ve ever spoken to in their 30s wouldn’t go back to their 20s for anything. It’s the same with the elderly people, despite any sicknesses, age induced disability, problems with mobility or controlling their bodily functions, they seem so at peace. And despite their admiration of youth and all the benefits it offers, it doesn’t seem to me that most of them spend their time yearning after their youth. I guess that’s the importance of living our lives to the full (whatever that might entail for each of us), so that we don’t have any regrets when we get older.
I’m in favour where possible of elderly people living with family rather than in a home if only because I think a home forces them to realise they’re old; and act accordingly.
True observations girl. With everything in life there is a balance, whether we like it or not. You can’t have it all, is a saying which resonates profoundly.
However, I think I’d add a take on that saying that you can, if you redefine what ‘all’ is.
Thanks for thoughts.
this is so insightful and thanks for sharing. people tend to shy away from talking about old age in such an honest manner . aging is inevitable yet it seems like most of us live pretending that we will love forever. there seems to be a strong taboo around sending old ppl to homes because ppl think it must mean you don’t want your old family members around. I always commend the people who work at these homes , taking care of the old. they really do alot in terms in their day to day that alot of us may not understand. i would rather see an old person taken care of in a home instead of passed off to live with family members who may not be keen on doing it in the first place. it is alot of responsibility and not every people can take on the challenge it brings. i try not to judge people’s decisions when it comes to how they deal with their elderly. there is no one best way…every story is different.
Exactly, every story is different! As long as we try to find a way to not look at old age negatively and to condemn other people’s choices, whether in a home or as a ‘burden’ to family.