Caught up with an aunt in ages. She's 80 and lonely. Sooo happy to talk to me. Every few minutes she'd say - OK, I'm sure you have to go now- and want to hang up. And be pleased when I'd say I'm in no hurry to hang up. We ended up chatting for 40 minutes. Towards the end she said no one wants to talk to her these days and that she's almost retreating in herself and consoling herself that this is life...

Made me think. Is this what I will end up as ? Lonely? Sad ? Helpless ? Resigned ?

I look at my Nani, who's over 90 - who has only one complaint from life (I think). She says she can't make her body obey her. It seems like the body has a mind of its own. Its frail & it prevents her from doing things that her mind is perfectly capable of.

How frustrating must a situation like this be? You're old and feeble; and there's nothing wrong with your mind. But you need assistance to walk, to eat, to get up, to use the toilet, for just about everything... You have to wait till people have the inclination (forget about the time) to talk to you. Your opinions are suddenly not important or relevant; and let's not even talk about your desires. You suddenly turn into a part of the house - the furniture ?Something that's always been there, something that has to be dusted ?

The sad part is that people around you are not unkind to you because they want to be unkind. Its the apathy that's killing. What do old people want ?

I am totally convinced that what the elderly need is time. They want opportunities for conversation; an opportunity to contribute. They need to be useful & wanted.

I remember my other grandmother. She lived with my parents off and on. And I remember one thing very clearly - the amount of time my dad would spend with her. After work, he made it a point to go rest in the adjoining bed, to chat up with her about her day or his. I like to think she enjoyed that time; and that she cherished it. Of course, it helped that we were young kids in the house and caused enormous hustle and bustle.

I wonder if we do that now i.e take time out for the parents. I certainly am guilty of a certain amount of apathy. So I don't necessarily take the time to talk to my in-laws at home or my parents over phone. And the parents are so understanding. They don't demand attention. They sit back & patiently tell themselves - its OK, things are different now. The children have busy lives and don't need any more intrusions.

But this situation needs to change.Of course, the biggest change I need to bring about is in me. I need to devote more time and attention to both sets of parents. Easier said than done. But let me try...


Anonymous said...

So true. I am equally guilty. I feel so impatient when someone talks slowly, about things that don't interest me, etc. - things associated with old people that need a lot patience. I am terribly lacking in it.
At the same time I fear old age so very very much - I fear loneliness but I fear helplessness so much more. I am a firm believer in euthanasia for that reason alone - may sound like a strong comment but not entirely unrelated to this post.

ggop said...

Great introspective post. Wonder what will happen to us. So nice of you to chat with the aunt. I'm sure she enjoyed your phone call.

Life 2.0 said...

I think old age affects people differently. For instance, I do not have a close relationship with my in-laws(not that they are that old) because they require that the relationship solely be my and my husbands responsibility. They do not take it upon themselves to be interactive with their children or grand children, so I do not have any guilt. A relationship takes both parties to be active and supportive.