Trinidad & Tobago: Three Score and Ten

Two Trinidadian bloggers – one living on island and the other a member of the diaspora – have come to the difficult realisation that their parents are growing old. In this post, they discuss the issue of ageism while sharing their mixed emotions and fears…

Denesia Venus, blogging at Outlish, says:

As adults, we sometimes neglect our parents. We get so caught up in our lives that we forget to look out for the same people who took care of us, without expecting too much in return.

When we were sick, who was the one person we wanted to take care of us? Our mummy, daddy, or a guardian who would dutifully be at our side, whether it was to rub us down with Vicks, feed us soup, or coax us to swallow some sort of ungodly concoction they conjured up, thinking it would make us better.

But, I often wonder about how many of us would be willing to reciprocate this, when our parents have aged, and they become ill (God forbid). When incontinence has set in, and they can no longer take care of themselves. What is it worth the life of a man, if, when he becomes ill, he is abandoned by his offspring, or his relatives?

Trini Like Salt, who lives in Boston, is aware that the geographical distance between him and his parents “doesn’t really allow one to observe their aging”:

I see that in intervals. I won’t see my mom for a year, my dad for longer than that (that’s a long story in and of itself), and when I do see them, I’m struck by what’s happening. My mom, especially, gives me pause. She was always the energetic one. She had to be, with 2 kids to raise pretty much on her own. But now, she’s definitely slowed, and slowing, down. She takes longer to get anywhere. She sometimes has to pause on steps.

I know it’s the order of things, but it’s still a helluva thing to watch your parents age – especially when you can see it clearly because you don’t see them for months at a time, and when you do, they’ve visibly changed.

Outlish, meanwhile, finds the number of elderly patients in hospitals to be a disturbing phenomenon:

I have realised that most of the warded patients are elderly persons, who have passed the designated three score and ten, and who have contributed what they could…until society casts them aside. They became ill, and their care quickly becomes the responsibility of someone else – especially if they live in homes. Not everyone has a spouse who is alive and well enough to take care of them, or children who can care for them.

There are the persons who live alone or with family, who are taken to the hospital, and are warded, and their relatives do not visit them. It is ironic, though, that when a warded patient’s pension cheque is received, relatives turn up for them to sign it.

She tells a sad story about “a lovely, yet severely ill, aged man [who] was hospitalized”:

His condition eventually improved steadily. Hospital staff even grew quite fond of him. A relative might visit him every other day or so – until, one day, he was discharged.

The patient was quite happy and excited to go home, after all he had been anticipating it for some time. The only thing is…no one ever came to pick him up. Calls to his relatives remained unanswered. The patient eventually realized what was taking place, grieved, and died a few days later. I was surprised to learn that this was not an unusual case in the hospital.

For the blogger, the story raises an important question:

Not that many aged people have relatives who are concerned enough to go the extra mile to care about them, and this got me thinking…Do we love and respect our elders the same way we did, as children? If your parents or grandparents were to become really ill, would you sacrifice your usual routine to take the time to care for them to the best of your ability?

I think that we do still love and respect our elders, but the relationship certainly is not the same. At times we are rude, disrespectful and impatient with our parents, but the reality is that – at times – when we are far from our parents, we tend to cherish and appreciate them more.

Trini Like Salt certainly seems to cherish his parents, especially his mother:

I think my mother is aging, but happily. I can’t know what it’s like to reach an age where the statistical fact of death is staring you in the face – but she has, and she doesn’t seem phased by it. I will someday, though, if I’m lucky.

Outlish ends by suggesting that distance – both physical and emotional – can be reduced by forging meaningful cross-generational relationships:

Sometimes if you take a little time to sit and have a chat with an elderly person, you will be amazed by how much they can tell you. Their stories may fascinate you, while bringing feelings of warmth, joy and nostalgia to them. Even if you heard the story a thousand times, let them have their moment. They have lived the very same lives we live, and they have struggled the same way we struggle. What makes me laugh is that sometimes we grow up to be almost just like them.

Taking care of your elderly loved ones is a serious responsibility, but I’m sure that when they pass on, you’d be much more comforted knowing that you did your best to help them, when they needed you the most.

In my humble opinion, just because we are young, and moving on, that doesn’t mean that we should turn our backs, and ignore the elderly. And we should be prepared for the day, when our parents need us to return the favour, and take care of them in their weakened years, just as they did for us.

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