Margaret is an 80 year old who is bedfast in her own home. Her muscles, bones and ligaments have been affected by an autoimmune rheumatoid condition.
Outside the City Wall
This is where the ‘oldies’ dwell.
Some of the ‘strong ones’, those still in the stream of life, see the ‘oldies’ as alien.
There is some sense of duty in the community and an industry called ‘Care’ exists, but often the frail ‘oldies’ are not consulted or included.
As for the ‘oldies’, if they still can, they live in their minds. Sometimes memories hurt (if the memory still works), because remembering the good times when they were once loved, wanted and vitally important, only reinforces their feeling of being infringed in their frail and needy years.
They learn to shrink back into the shadows where they might have been as children. They learn to walk the fine line between stating their needs whilst not bothering anyone too much.
The outside world might have lost its lustre for them; without doubt it would have changed radically, with their favourite and familiar places altered and sometimes gone completely.
Their existing world may have shrunk to a room or a bed at the end of a corridor but, worse still, in their spirit, they are often left to feel as loners on a lonely planet. It is the most terrible feeling of being outsiders, left alone with all their losses, all their regrets piled implacably around them.
They are at the mercy of the ‘strong ones’, lucky if they find kindness, trust, constancy and respect for their individuality and their helplessness. It’s bad enough to be waiting to die, but if some of the outside world is not brought to them, they are merely existing, facing day and night, the unknown. If families withdraw they have lost their tribe and are stranded, discarded.
A wise man once said: ‘It is best to live in our older years as though we were going to live forever.’ but ‘oldies’ need help to do this.
Their ageing bodies need to be seen as just handicaps which can be modified with various aids. They need a strong spirit that refuses to be beaten and they need help with this. Systems and routines can help manage these handicaps, as can continual effort and always making decisions or improvements within the range of possibility in particular circumstances.
It’s important for ‘oldies’ to avoid the trap of developing a ‘patient’ mentality. We should insist on being listened to and we should play a part in the upkeep of whatever health level can be maintained. These are the ways to avoid sitting under this challenge of being old. Living in the now, as welt as remembering good past times and having a purpose can save us from the repression and isolation that can result from not being in the mainstream that the ‘strong ones’ control.
Old age creeps up on us; we think subconsciously that it will never happen to us. We don’t or can’t really prepare for it. We can only tell others that it will happen, wish them well and hope that they do better than we did.
‘Oldies’ would like to be called ‘Elders’, to be useful and honoured for the achievement of making it through the difficult maze of life. It’s vital to be part of a community in our later years; to have life going on around us and to feel included. This takes away the sadness, isolation and stigma of being old. We need to give the cream of focus and loving soulful attention to younger generations who sense, perhaps without knowing it, that the continuity of family is important for their lives to be full and successful. ‘The children nurtured by their grandparents will live heroic lives.’