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To be elderly or one who is elder

December 4, 2011

Visting India and the USA I see a strange reality, almost a dichotomy. Being with my mom in cities in two countries, I see it is far easier to move about in one than the other, both in the roadways and the pathways in people’s hearts.

In India, we say we respect and love our elderly, yet our homes, buildings, streets are not made for those who are unsteady on their feet, slow and not fit and able. Even wheelchairs cannot be easily taken about. No driver will slow down for an elder person on the street, who is in any case likely to be one who is ‘poor’. The elderly in cities are largely house-bound once they find they cannot take the horns blaring at them, the tyres whizzing past their daily walk, or the seemingly blind pushing past their slow-paced stroll. A lot of resources, financial and personal, are needed to go for a walk in the park or an outing for a cup of tea in a pleasant garden. Two steps, an uneven entrance, the lack of a ramp in one home can spell the difference between two elderly friends being able to meet each other, or not.

Just as in the case of children, who are not listened to, often elders are treated as elderly but not Elder. Yes, there are old age homes here as well, but not well-organized places where the elders can decide to live in community.

Thank heavens that organizations like HelpAge India are helping the elderly poor,families are loving their elders and hopefully respecting them too, rather than seeing them as an
unnecessary appendage, friends are visiting each others’ parents. But the elderly in India, once they are unable to move on their feet, become largely house-bound.

In the USA, there is no cultural talk of respecting elders, except among the Tribes, but in the cities, you can see the elderly walking about, shopping, driving, meeting friends, and yes, here, too, you need organizations that
help the elderly if they need help.

It’s very grounding to see one’s parent when they need care but also respect. It’s a fine line to walk, and a lovely way to test one’s centeredness! Trying to put myself in my mom’s shoes, to better serve her, I begin to think what I would like if I begin to wear those shoes.

What would I like as an elderly person, if I do get to be one? I would like to move around at will, not be house-bound unless I choose to be so, to choose my own company and not be treated with the condescension accorded by ‘adults’ to the ones in childhood and secondary childhood, to be able to call on for help if needed, but not be forced to accept it. I would like to not be a physical, emotional or financial burden on my children, unless that is called for our mutual learning. I would like to give if I can, as an Elder and not just be Elderly.

For this, the way I live today, needs to be fine-tuned.

I watch all these thoughts come, and then let them go. Like pebbles taken from the river, I savor their touch, then toss them back. This moment needs to be lived. That is all I have in any case. This moment. Ma is finishing her daily journal for today, and will soon begin her yoga.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Seema Mehra permalink
    December 5, 2011 12:13 am

    As always…beautiful!

  2. December 5, 2011 5:00 am

    Thanks for pointing towards a real problem.

  3. December 5, 2011 7:06 am

    ♡♡♡
    Two magical beings in a life continuum

    sharing the gifts of writing

    our love’s perfection

    is like a child’s empty hand

    or a fragrance

    reaching out

    in silence.

    YES… on bringing up the

    awareness to help the Elders.

  4. December 5, 2011 9:45 am

    How lovely to find three friends here with me! Seema, thank you. You know where beauty lies, right? In the heart of the reader ❤
    Sanmugan, feeling the empathy in your words.
    Kathy, wow, such poetic words;I loved what flowed out. Thank youl.

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