Several years ago I fell in love with Italy. I was blessed to soak up the beautiful environment while studying the language and partaking of all things Italian. In fact, before I moved to Santa Fe, NM Italy was a serious consideration of places to live. I had grown weary of the US and wanted a more caring way of life. I had watched over the years how we in the US had become a throw away society relegating our elderly to nursing homes so that we could move on with our lives. I admired the Italians and the way they nurtured and valued the elderly. I watched as my dear friend whom I had met on one of my sojourns cared for her father in law as he was suffering from dementia. The tenderness and all inclusiveness was something to behold as he was cherished as a loved one and remained in the home. Of course there was extra work as he required feeding, bathing and dressing but the love in which these activities were carried out was evident. The last photograph before he died I took on one of my visits. It was a holiday meal and we were all standing around the table with him in the foreground giving a gaze to the camera. That is the life that I would want in my aged years. I would want love, respect and a community of caring friends.
We are living in a time of youth obsession. Media tells us if we use the latest cream, exercise, take the best potions we can stay young forever. It seems as if no one wants to get old. There is a saying that aging is not for sissies. Everyone knows that along with aging there will be bodily changes. Our senses may dim and we will have to learn to navigate our world in a different way. Many of us spend a great amount of time denying and fighting the inevitable. We will all age and we will all die. We have done a disservice to our elderly. We have forgotten respect and how to listen. We become impatient with their increasing frailty and many avoid our elderly citizens all together. Nursing homes have become our nation’s dumping ground. Our elderly are the ones who carry our wisdom and our history. They are the ones who have carried the light on the path. Aging can be a passage with great dignity if we allow. Our older citizens deserve a place at the table of life and their voices need to be heard. Youth would learn much by disconnecting the latest gadget and listening.
I consider myself blessed as this day I still enjoy the friendship and love of my elderly parents. I never tire of hearing the same stories over and over. It is a gift.