Old age is part of the human life cycle. Just as a plant grows from a seed to a full-grown tree, then in its maturity it dies by the hands of a lumberjack, man’s fate is just as equal to the tree, humans grow, age, and die. Aging has been a point of discussion for thousands of years, generating ideas like immortality as a means or a cure for aging. The ancient Chinese society was obsessed with youthfulness, seeking all alternatives to remain young, some of their traditional legends claim that some of the ancient masters became immortals by discovering the secrets of youthfulness. The closest account of immortality that I have come across is in the bible where Elijah is taken by God on a chariot of fire, he does not taste death like most of the biblical prophets. In this modern age, aging is not a dream. It is something that persons usually encounter. If one was raised in a family setup then he/she must have encountered grandparents, this is a basic fundamental needed to understand the topic of study. Aging is a fact that should have already been accepted by society. This paper goes deep into discussing the final stage of life and the experiences of the elderly using the article “Old Before Her Time” written by Katherine Barrette citing other resources where relevant.
Life of the Elderly and Problems They Face
Life is not defined as the act of inhaling and exhaling, it is more than that. Life is the joy involved in discovering all the universal possibilities that can lift a man into stellar standards. When a person ages, the physical abilities that they once had, reduces with the age. Old age brings with it disadvantages, the disadvantages beget problems, as discussed below.
a) Health Care Costs/Nursing Home Care
Taking care of the elderly is expensive for families to do not have a stable income. It is approximately 245 $ a day. Some families that live on less than 50 $ a day would consider such a price expensive. Paty Moore the undercover researcher in Katherine Barrette’s essay, Old Before Her Time, says that she experienced the feeling of being ignored and left by people in the time of need (Barrett, 2013). This trend is not new; some elderly persons have been left stranded by their relatives because of financial problems. Morally and ethically it is not proper to abandon your loved ones even if age catches up with them. Abandonment can be seen as a sign of disrespect, believing that children should be the ones taking care of their aged parents, or grandparents.
b) Elder Abuse
Abuse is the act of trying to cause someone discomfort, emotionally, physically or by any other means possible that can irritate, kill or maim the recipient. Paty Moore narrates the ordeal she undergoes while disguised as an old woman. Kids dehumanize her personality by throwing pebbles at her (Barrett, 2013), and even try to rob her purse. Abuse happening to elders in the society should be brought to light and the persons accused of the crime put to justice. Murder, rape, and robbery are some of the nasty things afflicted on the elderly (Spears, 2015). Decay in moral standards in society, especially among the youths has led to increased elderly abuse. Most of the abuse cases happen from close relatives, the ones who should be taking care of the elderly. The government should take strong actions against such uncivilized acts by putting policies that protect the elderly from violence. Neighbors should not be silent if and when they notice abuse on happening to an elderly person.
The elderly are undergoing unimaginable pain in some societies in the world. The elderly are being lynched because of the perception that they are sorcerers and they use voodoo to commit murderers. The lynch mob claim that being old and gray is a mark of sorcery. (Ongala & Beja, 2019). This is happening in most parts of the world. The motive behind such acts of violence is the deteriorated morals of the youth and their greed for quick cash. Paty Moore says the elderly should not be looked down upon because of having wrinkles on their faces. Some elders undergo crucial pain of being chopped by machetes, or his/her relatives threatened or killed, because of being related to the elderly who has been branded a witch (Ongala & Beja, 2019). Superstition also plays a role in the way the youth view their elders. Some societies in Africa branded old women as witches just because the women had ended up outliving their spouses and most of the elderly in the community. The youths should embrace a different way of thinking, just because witches’ and wizards appear to be old men and women in movies and folklore, it does not mean that all the weird elderlies in the community practice sorcery
d) Physical and Mental Health
Angelou’s poem describes the mental problems affecting the society’s view on the old aged, she tries to implore the people to stop their pity and sympathy, and let the elderly retrieve the rocking chairs themselves, implying that the aged should be left to help if they can. She concludes by saying that old age does not mean laziness (Angelou, n.d.). Branding the elderly as lazy psychologically affects them as most are willing to help around the house or compound if they are given the chance. Such tasks are helpful in calming the minds of the elderly as this activity removes idleness which is a disease to many.
In some families that have a mentally ill person, you will occasionally find the mentally ill person locked in the house. This especially occurs if the mentally ill are in old age. Taking care of such a person is a hard task and the drug used for giving them mental stability is expensive. The guardians are urged to make sure that the mentally ill are not kept, in isolation unless directed by the physician. Isolation causes mental deterioration.
e) Weak bones.
In the poem by Maya Angelou, the physical limits of the elderly clearly indicate the frail nature that comes with aging, Angelou writes that when her bones are stiff and aching, and her feet lacking the strength to climb the chair one should not pity her stature. These facts conclude that frailty and pain in the bones are side effects brought by the aging of the body (Angelou, n.d.)
Roz Chast, in her memoir titled, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? She narrates her life as a child living in Brooklyn with her parents, She was the only child after her day-old sibling succumbed to death. The theme of elderly abuse in society is reflected when she narrates how kids mocked her about the age of her parents. They mocked her by saying that her parents were a zillion years and that they were nearing death. Her tough childhood, a neighborhood she didn’t like, are some of the reasons she wanted to leave Brooklyn. She eventually manages to relocate to Connecticut with her husband and her child. It takes 10 years before she decides to come back to Brooklyn to check on her parents, who are now advanced in years. Neglect is portrayed here as an abuse to the elderly when Roz Chast leaves for ten years without visiting them.
Observation from San Diego
The State Government of San Diego is fighting against elderly abuse, the state prosecutor attests to the challenges the state had before the project picked pace. It is good to know that the Stare has been prosecuting elderly abuse for the past sixteen years. (University of California Television, 2012)
Cresting a character of compassion should be a step forward in realizing that life is a gift, and we should cherish the last moment that we have with the aging, neglect or shunning away is disrespectful. The elderly in society should be showered with love as this improves their psychological well being.
- Angelou, M. (n.d.). On Aging. Retrieved, December 16, 2019, fromhttps://allpoetry.com/poem/14326532-On-Aging-by-Maya-Angelou
- Barrett, K. (2013, Feb 23). Old before her time. Retrieved from https://www.bartleby.com/essay/Old-Before-Her-Time-Katherine-Barrett-P3C2272KVJ
- Chast, R. (2014). Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.
- Ongala, M. & Beja, P. (2019, Feb 24). Stop killing us, say elderly men living at the mercy of armed lynch mob. Standard Digital. Retrieved from https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001314230/stop-killing-us-say-elderly-men-living-at-the-mercy-of-armed-lynch-mob
- Spears, C, M. (2018, Feb 5). Common Problems Faced by the Elderly in the US [Web log post]. Retrieved Dec 16, 2019, from https://www.familymattershc.com/common-problems-for-elderly/
- University of California Television, (2012, Oct 12). Elder abuse: the crime of the twenty-first century? – research on aging [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JoUapRfjZw