Abandoning the Old Persons


Abandonment of the Old.

Around me there are many old people, the average age probably 78 years.    The average income probably somewhere about $35,000 per household.     Most of these are retired civil servants; i.e., teachers, social workers, postal workers, dentists, and other middle income occupations.     On a material level their lives are comfortable.    They are a generation that was raised on frugality and have all worked hard and saved.  They are not used to excess or waste so despite the inflated costs of everything they manage by cutting back on expensive foods, not taking trips and choosing recreation that is relatively free.   
On an emotional level, however, there is a sense of deprivation  The family and people they can trust to care for them as they age and become more and more dependent on others for care are not there.  Not being able to trust that someone will care for them causes more and more isolation.      Somewhere along the way they bought into the idea that their family and/or children are not to be burdened or bothered with them at this stage of their lives.  Now, that choice has its consequences and the loneliness of “doing your own thing” starts to take its toll.   
In the South where I grew up family made sure that the old were cared for.    Even those too poor to care for their own were always there to visit.    No person went into the hospital without family members “sitting” with them until they were well.     When a person was dying, again family and friends “sat” with the person until they passed over.  Even the old and eccentric who preferred to be alone where checked on to make sure they were safe.   
She is 84, she lives with a daughter in a foreign land and does not speak the language.     There have been many health issues and she is now seriously debilitated and cannot manage on her own.  She is left alone for sometimes a week or longer with no one except a cleaning lady and gardener who come once a week and who do not speak English.   Her physical needs are met.   She has groceries and can still make simple meals. There is a complete vacuum of human contact and she is left to ruminate about the past,  and watch TV for hours on end.    We all have to die and any thinking person is aware that with age comes debilitation, however, we do not have to be isolated from humanity as we leave this world.   
  We all seek fusion, some call it God, and at the end of life it doesn’t seem too much to  ask that our “family” not necessarily biological family, could offer that same sense of belonging by being there.     When we offer our children the option of not being burdened with our care when we are old, are we not excusing them from one of our most basic values “do unto others as you would do for yourself” ?  Taking responsibility for  our aloneness means hard decisions at times. It means saying to the family or friends what your needs are, it may mean moving into a communal living establishment and giving up the house with our things.  Both the old person and the family have to make changes.
As one of the elderly, age 75, I am taking seriously my feelings and attitudes about being abandoned.    I have to take responsibility for letting my family know my feelings, of trying to arrange for enough money to pay costs and talking, talking, talking with them so that in the end all of our needs get met.    Hiding my head in the sand and also allowing them to deny that I am in the last stage of my life is not an option.    Dying is a messy business but it does not have to be a journey we take alone.   

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