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?