Caring for the elderly

February 08, 2020


A few days ago, I happened to visit one of my relatives, it was a get-together of almost all the family members, young and old. There were many whom I hadn’t met in a very long time.

I had a great time with all of them, but what I enjoyed most was the company of the elders. Yes, I found them more interesting than my age group. The time I spent with them was so very precious because I learnt many things which I was unaware of or you can say, things which I always took for granted.

Their eyes spoke about their years of experience, wisdom and knowledge. Throughout the time, I noticed that other youngsters kept away from them as if they were fearsome teachers who would punish them any minute. And some younger ones thought it was better to stay away in case they were asked to do any chores.

I hope none of you would do that to any senior members in your family. What I mean from senior members is your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, aged aunts and uncles, who could be of your family, acquaintances or neighbours.

Growing old is an inevitable process, all of us must go through this phase of life as we pass from infancy to childhood to youth and to adulthood. If anyone has an elderly in the family, they must consider themselves lucky to have wise sages, a precious source of knowledge and, most importantly, the keepers of the traditions. In this regard, I consider myself unfortunate. I have no elderly left in my family as all of them have passed away with time.

This writeup is just a reminder to you, my little friends, that if you have an elderly in your family, waste no minute and give him or her your time, love and respect. In return, learn from their experiences. It is not about taking a lecture on life’s important matters. It is as simple as sharing your routine with them and be showered with wise words. You will soon learn how to look at things from their experienced perspective and so many things that seem like major issues to you will no longer feel like too much to handle.

Let’s admit, the way we behave and respond to anything today, is usually not the right way. Admit it, that we have become aggressive and quite hyper in personality because the advanced and fast-paced society we are living in today has changed us and we don’t even realise it. We have become quite emotionless. However, the more time you spend with elders, you will come to know how serene they are, how calmly they react to things.

Today, most of us are busy in our lives and live like robots, following set routine and whatever time we get, we spend it on social media or watch TV. Although having some ‘me’ time is important, taking 30-minutes off from your schedule and spending that time with the elderly is worth spending.

Let’s bring change in our life and learn from the elders. How? Following are some of the changes you can bring into your daily routine and make your elders happy and content.

Spare some time

Caring for someone who once cared for us is the highest honour. What I mean from spending time with them is to share your experiences or the day’s events. Let’s say something happened at school, or in the class, just share it with them. You will notice the happiness on their face, as they will feel their importance in your life when you share something with them.

Personally, I feel sharing and sparing time for the elderly from our so-called busy routines, adds to self-development. Elders teach us respect, perseverance and values. By being with them and caring for them, we learn how to establish relationships and grow. Slowly, we also learn patience and tolerance as they often tell us to ‘be patient’, isn’t it?

The elderly have lived long, so they know life very well. They have been through the ups and downs of life, they know exactly how to cope with serious matters and how to face problems. So by sharing things and spending time with them, you learn the right way to handle those things.

Be polite

They love you unconditionally. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in respond to any of their queries is disrespectful. Always respond properly. Adding a few words to give a proper reply of an adequate length will do you no harm, but it will make them happy.

If you had a bad day at school or college, or you are not in your usual mood to talk, keep it inside you. Learn to take control of yourself. Don’t burst out your moods on elders. By doing this, you crush their emotions and feelings. It is being disrespectful to their honour and dignity. At their age, they are more sensitive, thus they need more love and respect every time, not just when you think you are in the right mood.

Respect their position

Whether great grandparents or old aunts and uncles, keep in mind that they have great experience. They raised you or your parents and made sacrifices for the whole family all these years. But now when they are old, they may not have the energy to work and perform several tasks like they did when they were young. Since age progresses, various medical issues appear, for instance, blood pressure, diabetes, heart issues, joint pains and similar such problems. So, at such times, they look towards us, need our attention and we must help with the things they effortlessly did before.

Remember kids, don’t hurt their dignity at any time, do their work happily, show them that you really care for them. For instance, ask them if they would like a glass of water, or a cup of tea or coffee. Ask politely, if they need anything else. By doing this, you will not only show them they are important in your life, but they can reach you anytime if they need.

Elderly teach us about values and life

Don’t forget that it is our traditions that make us unique and give us identity. If you don’t know your family background, your traditions and culture; you are cheating yourself. I would like to give here an example from the get-together with relatives I discussed earlier.

As my mother tongue is Sindhi, so while talking to the relatives, (who were mostly Sindhis too), they pointed out and corrected some of my mispronounced Sindhi words; and when I didn’t know how to explain something in Sindhi, I inserted English and Urdu words to convey my message.

The elders kept listening to me intently and then they told the correct pronunciation. It was an embarrassing situation, however, it made me realise that having no elderly in my family, all of us siblings have forgotten the real flair of our mother tongue as we inserted a lot from Urdu and English words.

There is no harm in learning other languages, but forgetting your mother tongue is the worst thing you could do to yourself or your family traditions; this is just one example of what a blessing elders are.

The evening of their life

Let’s face it, with age, the future becomes uncertain. Try to make them live out the rest of their lives happy and content. Remember kids, it’s not just ill-health that affects old age, issues such as negligence from the younger generation ruin their mental health more. So make sure you don’t hurt their feelings.

These were just a few suggestions to bring meaningful change in to your lives while making a positive impact on the lives of others. Remember, you too will age one day.

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 8th, 2020