Blog #616 Aging and Value

Aging Ills – Value

Value is defined as “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.”

For the next several days, we are going to explore aging.  These thoughts come from me, from memories of people that I have known (or know).  

-1 Today we are looking at a person’s value

All people need to be valued.  But, seniors are not always valued as human beings should be.  

I have been to nursing homes, to care centers, to shut-ins, to dementia wards, and to high end retirement centers.  I want to talk about a scenario first:

In some of nursing homes I visited, there were patients who NEVER had visitors – or the visitors they had were only there a few minutes.  

Scenario:

One nursing home of my memories the patient (male) had a son who lived in a different state.  I assume that son was a good man, who had a family and career of his own. I pictured the son (who I never met) as a business executive – having a lot of responsibilities, a very full agenda.  I picture this son spending 60 hours a week on business work, but making time for his family. I see him on a date night with his wife, going to his son’s baseball (or soccer games).  I see him sitting in a church on a Sunday (when he could make it).  And, I also see guilt in his life – he ‘KNOWS’ he needs to visit his dad, he wants to visit his dad, but it seems like visiting his dad just doesn’t mesh with his life.

When the son comes to visit, he has to fly in from his home location – I picture a Saturday in his full schedule.  It basically is a day to fly in, stop and visit as soon as he gets to the dad’s state. The son visits and reads with his dad, watches TV with the dad, talks about his family, how the old man’s grandson is doing, how his work is doing, how his wife is doing.  He stays and has dinner at the nursing home and visits until bedtime and heads to a motel. At the motel, he pulls out his laptop and works on business ideas until he is so exhausted that he has to sleep.

On the next morning (a Sunday in my thoughts); the son shows up at breakfast at the nursing home.  He might help his father eat the breakfast, sits and talks with him. Maybe there is a worship service or maybe not, the son stays with his dad until he has to leave to catch the last plane back to his home.  For that weekend, he has focused on his dad, and spent time with him.

Back in his world, it is six months again before he can make the trip to see his dad.  The son might call, might send letters, notes or even simple presents. But, it is not the same as being physically with his father.

The dad, if thinking clearly, knows that his son is busy, that his son has responsibilities and activities, but feels lonely.  The dad thinks he has little value to anybody. Many times the older man wishes he was dead. He might even pray (if he is a praying person) for death.

He might say “why am I living, I have no value to anybody, I would be better off dead.”  The father goes into depression; maybe he eats less because he is depressed, he plays bingo with the group, but it is only a ‘ho-hum’ activity.  Like others on his floor, he watched TV 14 hours a day. He doesn’t really care what is on, the TV is like a companion in the room.

So …

Do older people have value?  (My answer – ABSOLUTELY YES).  How can we (younger) convey the message to seniors that they do have value?  I have said many times that ‘love’ is spelled ‘T I M E’. The son in the story tried to visit his dad but it was difficult for him.  Maybe the son could help move his dad to a facility nearer him and then be able to visit him at least weekly.  Maybe his wife and his son could visit too. Maybe if the older man was able, to get him to one of the grandson’s baseball or soccer games; maybe if the older man was able, to get him out of the nursing home occasionally – for a walk or push in a wheelchair – around the block.  

My uncle is 95, and his wife is 96.  They live independently. It is hard to call him to visit as he is very hard of hearing.  I try to send letters and pictures of my/our grandchildren occasionally. They do get out daily and go to a central facility for meals – and socialization.  My uncle is gregorius, but with the hearing problems he is going more and more into a shell. He has value. He can talk about his life experiences and his work.  He can talk about his involvement in World War II. He is a warm and generous person (as is his wife). He has value.

Some cultures (namely the Chinese) revere this parents and ancestors.  They frequently will bring them into their homes to honor them and make them part of their family.  

To my senior friends – do you feel you have value?  To my non-senior friends, do you visit your parents (if they are alive) with some regularity?  Do you visit other seniors that you know from your childhood or church or community group? Do you let them know they are of value?

What do you think?

More tomorrow!!

Bruce

Posted by Bruce White

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