We have a neighbor that is well into her 80s. We are always conflicted as to how involved we should get. We have had a couple of good conversations with the lady and have learned lots about her life. Every time we have offered help she has been polite to decline it and seems to be a private person even though she has shared some of her life story with us. The conflict comes from both Bea and I coming from a society where our elders were not just part of our lives, they were integral parts of our formation as human beings. Elders are not just respected but rather revered. I cannot forget the first time I went to an “old folks home” back in Colombia when I was a kid and thinking about how it was like an orphanage but for older people. I never imagined that in the society that I would become an adult, a “retirement community” was not the exception but pretty close to the rule.
This society is geared towards individualism and youth. Every day industries promote the fountain of youth and how people are living longer, but also how obsessed people are with staying young. The 40s are the new 30s and so on. Many people are scared of getting older in all societies, but getting older in the U.S. can be right down terrifying.
My paternal grandfather passed away in 2006 and my maternal grandfather is getting older each day. My Mom and I have talked about how my grandfather’s light is not shinning as bright as it used to. This is the man that taught me how to play chess and was always very assertive and successful business man. Now his days are full of anxiety about his illness and all he seems to look forward to now are his yearly trips to Colombia to escape the winter. The cold that to him is killing him might be related more to the coldness of this society has towards the elder rather than the temperature on the thermometer. He would gladly spend the rest of his life back in Colombia, but my grandma who is over a decade younger than him wants to be here where all of our family is. Continue reading →