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Thought for the week – Paving the way
One thing that I have noticed from my many years living in Africa and Asia is that in tribal cultures the elderly play an important role. They are the keepers of that cultures memories and the holders of wisdom. As such, the elderly are honored and respected members of those societies and cultures because they have paved the way for the future for their young.

Valuing our Elderly
In many modern cultures, however, this is often not the case, especially when we see and read lately of how some of our elderly have been treated so appallingly in some elderly homes or establishments. Many elderly people that I know say they feel ignored, left out, under valued and disrespected. This is a very sad commentary on modernization and urbanization. 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.

Modern societies tend 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. As a result, the wisdom that is passed down from older generations is often disregarded. Of course, parents, grandparents and retired persons have more than enough information to offer the world. Their maturity and experience allows for a larger perspective on life, and we can learn a lot from talking to elderly people. It’s a shame that society doesn’t do more to allow our older population to continue to feel productive for the rest of their lives.

Playing a Part
We can all play a part in changing this. Perhaps you could facilitate a mentorship programme that would allow children to be tutored by the elderly or retirement groups. I was guest at a retirement group get together in Galway recently and they were so inspirational to me and were full of life in ideas about how to help people in our county and in our country. The elderly make wonderful storytellers and creating programs where they could share their real life experiences with others is another way to educate and inspire other generations.

Take stock of your relationship with the elderly population. Maybe you don’t really listen to them because you hold the belief that their time has passed and they are too old to understand what you are going through. You may even realize that you don’t have any relationships with older people. Try to understand why and how our cultural perception of the elderly influences the way you perceive them.

To end this thought, I will go to a prayer in my Nana Scully’s prayer book that she always said called ‘ Beatitudes for 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 seem to know that my eyes are dim and my wits are slow. 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. Resolve to be more aware of the elderly in our society for they are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, family, mentors, work colleagues, wise folk and the pioneers that came before us and paved the way for our future.