Posted by Ronan Scully in Features.

In recent years, we have seen our elderly treated appallingly in some homes and establishments, left to languish for hours upon hours on hospital trolleys, and seen attempts to slash the old age pension and medical card schemes.  Some elderly people I know say they feel ignored, left out, undervalued and disrespected. This is a very sad commentary on our modern world. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change this situation by taking the time to examine our attitudes about the elderly, and taking action.

Our modern society tends to be obsessed with ideas of newness, youth and progress. Scientific studies tell us how to do everything, from the way we raise our children to what we need to eat for breakfast. But now more than ever we need to take stock of our relationship with the elderly population. Maybe we con’t really listen to them because we hold the belief that their time has passed and they are too old to understand what we are going through. We may even realise that we don’t have any relationships with older people. Try to understand why and how our cultural perception of the elderly influences the way we view them. As usual, there is a story that will hopefully make you really care for our elderly and for our loved ones.

The Wooden Bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and a four-year old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together nightly at the dinner table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating rather difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass often milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about grandfather,” said the son. I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, grandfather ate along while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner at the diner table. Since grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. Sometimes when the family glanced in grandfather’s direction, he had a tear in his eye as he ate alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and mammy to eat your food from when I grow up.” The four-year old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days, he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Beatitudes for the Friends of the Aged

Blessed are they who understand my faltering step and palsied hand. Blessed are they who know that my ears today must strain to catch the things they say. Blessed are they who looked away when coffee spilled at table today. Blessed are they with cheery smiles that stop to chat for a little while. Blessed are they who never say, You’ve told that story twice today. Blessed are they who know the ways to bring back memories of yesterdays. Blessed are they who make it known that I’m loved, respected and not alone. Blessed are they who know I’m at a loss to find strength to carry the cross. Blessed are they who ease the days on my journey home in loving ways and who make each of my days a gift.

Thought for the week

As your thought for this week, remember that each day is a gift and that many of our elderly and aged friends and relatives helped to provide us with such a gift. The story of The Wooden Bowl reminds us that we should never forget to show those around us that we love them and appreciate them; it also teaches us the lesson to love, respect and give value to our elders, because without them, there would be no use. The only way we could thank them is to give them the love, respect, and treatment that they deserve—loving them unconditionally everyday of ours and their lives and certainly not leaving them languishing on hospital trolleys!