“Some people, no matter how old they get,never lose their beauty — they merely move it from their faces into their hearts.” … Martin Buxbaum
Have you ever stopped for a moment and looked at seniors… I mean really looked at them? Very few people do that. A few key reasons immediately jump to my mind; the first and foremost being that everyone is in a huge rush to go “somewhere important”: people to see, places to go, things to do! Seniors tend to be at the end of that road. For the most part they have learned that life happens at its own pace and that the most that we can do is optimize the ride. There’s no point in trying to push the river upstream when it is fully intent on reaching the ocean and to boot has the power of the Earth behind it.
Being a people watcher I notice things. One of the things that I notice about seniors is their care for each other. Their declining physical state promotes in them empathy for others like them. They understand what it is like not to be able to run as fast or even walk as fast as they used to, to have to squint more or wear thicker glasses to read, to not be able to hear all of a conversation and to generally, be tolerated, rather than listened to: which brings me to point number two. Seniors remind of us – blatantly and right up there in our faces – of our mortality and the pre-passing-over times that unfortunately precede so many journeys out of this world.
When you’re young getting old is unthinkable. When you’re a still-pretty-young, up and coming executive or a hard-working, trying to get ahead mom or dad, getting old is something that you think about only in terms of saving for your retirement. The years roll by, your kids get older and now “older” starts to look like your parents. With luck your journey into being a member of “The Sandwich Generation” is gentle – your parents are still hale, hardy and active. If not then you get your first true introduction to what was previously unthinkable – you get to see the declining years of a beloved someone on planet Earth.
Perhaps at this point you’re wondering where the motivation is in here. “Come on Susanne this is just depressing.” But it doesn’t have to be! Seniors aren’t just some nameless statistics out there. They are our mothers, our fathers, our aunts and our uncles. They are our neighbours, our friends and they are people. They are people for whom we care and they are people who care for someone else. Growing old doesn’t have to negate who they are. Their growing old process presents us with opportunities to become the people whom we would optimally like to be. Their aging allows us to express the compassionate heart that lies inside of each of us.
I have built a company that is based on the premise that ALL people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and so we spend a lot of time with …you guessed it … seniors. And, in general, Martin Buxbaum is correct. Seniors may not be beautiful in society’s eyes, they may not walk well, if at all, they may have their cranky days (and hey if I had lost all MY independence I’d be pretty cranky too) but most of them have beautiful hearts. They have stories to tell – if someone just takes the time to listen. They have lived lives of great highs and lows, filled with love and loss, of hard times beyond our imagining and happy days filled with simple pleasures. Whilst people outside of them see only the infirmities, and wish at every level of their being to negate the possibility of said infirmities for themselves – what they forget is that these are people who have lived fully – as we are living now.
I believe that it is time to ask ourselves how WE will want to be treated by “the young people” when we reach our twilight years. The media have everyone focused on the numerous frightening possibilities that lie ahead; and yes if they all happened that would indeed be a scary scenario! I think that education is indeed a FANTASTIC and necessary tool, however, perhaps we could strive for a more balanced blend of knowledge (“Now that these things are happening – to my parent, spouse, me – what do I do?), compassion for the challenges of change and the giving of the gift of time. Time is the one thing which these beautiful hearts do not have a lot of. Time is what they have already spent a lifetime experiencing. And time to listen (no matter how many times we may have heard that same story) is what WE can give them; because when they are gone, there will be no more stories, we will have all the time in the world to rush about doing our busy lives and one more beautiful heart will have returned to the Universe.
This week give some thought to how you would like to spend your “retirement” years. Not just the vacations in the sun, or the RRSP savings, but the actual way you would like to be, think and interact in those years. Get clear about the feelings that you would like have, the people you would love to spend time with and what parts of your life you would want to share with them. Then maybe, just maybe, in the midst of one of your busy days you can make time for a senior so that they too can have the same warm feelings and chance to share to which you are looking forward. This week let your compassionate heart shine and then watch, amazed, as a beautiful heart comes out to play.
Godspeed and Joyful Journeying Everyone