No One Taught Me How To Be Old….

Where Do I Go From Here?

“I couldn’t just be a kid because I had to learn to be a grown-up. Then I was a grown-up for 4o years, but was to busy learning to be a parent. Now I am old for God only knows how long. No one taught me how to be old.”

I over hear a group talking in a coffee shop this morning.  They were late 60’s early 70’s.  Their eyes are getting bad–can’t drive at night; joints are getting stiff–can’t clean out the gutters; inflation is eating up their savings–afraid of being poor; burying their parents, friends, children, and grandchildren; don’t want any Christmas gifts that have to be dusted or stored; etc.   One friend is trying this, another friend can’t handle that.  Aging by trial and error, a stab in the dark–literally.  It seems like a fearful time. SCARY.

Then they began talking about their elders in different nursing/retirement/assisted-living facilities.  They hadn’t been by to visit as often as they should, couldn’t seem to make the time, and really it was just so hard….

I got to thinking.  We as a species (more so in some nations than in others) are just too smart for our own good.  Seems to me that the very folks that could teach these good people “how to be old,” are the very ones shuffled off into those facilities that are too hard to visit.

We separate ourselves by generation.  All through history society functioned in family/tribal structures.  We now have a generationally layered cast system with the working adults on top then teens, retirees, children, and elderly beneath.  Pre-born children are completely expendable.  Moves are being made to make the elderly and early post-born expendable, as well.  There are separate facilities and  programs designed for each.  They only meet in passing, with no understanding, and little tolerance.

We all know there is something terribly wrong with the school aged generation.  Falling test scores, suicides, gangs, and rampant violent crimes are just the tip of the iceberg. Many articles are referencing The Lord of the Flies–kids raising kids issue. There are herds of young people from birth on driven and shuffled about.  There are virtually no functioning adults (excludes child mothers and uneducated/unemployed big boys) in the neighborhood till after 5:00.   A child must fight their way through this real life Hunger Games.  SCARY.

A generation taught to be employees and utterly self-absorbed are thrown into parenting with little preparation or support.  It takes two full time jobs to finance the average lifestyle.  Half the marriages end in divorce which is a financial plague.  Asking parents for help is considered the ultimate Classic FAIL.  Childcare, soccer, piano lessons, T-ball, and on and on and on adds ridiculous financial and time pressures.  That doesn’t even touch the constant demand for new and varied electronic gadgets.  The new adult, new parent, new employee all on their own  with a mountain of burden thrust upon them.  SCARY.

The elderly while away their remaining days alone or in a room with others in the same condition (plus or minus adult diapers).  Hard to see, hard to hear, and knowing they couldn’t fend for themselves if they had to; they wait for the end.  One neighbor after another dying.  Busy work provided by the appropriate program.  Their children are busy with their own fears and burdens.  These same elders are the ones who taught their children to grow up and go away–hard to ask them to come by now.  Cats in the Cradle and we’ll get together…well in the Sweet By and By. A person who is going to die, wondering if anyone will grieve–or even notice.  SCARY.

Cross generational families and communities take care of virtually all this.  Knowledge, resources, strength, and time are shared freely.  Mentoring and help is available to those coming behind.  Each generation knows ahead of time how to transition into the next, what is expected, and how new challenges will be met.  What is the opposite of scary? SECURITY.  Ahhhhhh.

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