Why Be Concerned About the Elderly?
LONELINESS, poverty, sorrow and despair. If a loved one suffered such things, what would you do? Likely, render aid, if possible.
A recent study in one region of the United States revealed that nearly half of the elderly found their later years ‘a time of loneliness, poverty, sorrow and despair.’ Of course, not all older persons have those problems. But they face others.
The elderly who must live on small fixed incomes from pensions, Social Security payments and the like keenly feel today’s spiraling inflation. Moreover, some are poverty-stricken. Take the example of a seventy-year-old woman who lives in poverty, has no relatives, is deaf, partly disabled and has a bad bronchial condition. Not long ago, because of illness, she was confined to her apartment and for days had nothing to eat but some cereal.
Thieves and muggers consider the elderly easy prey. As one teen-age gang member put it: “The old people, they won’t chase you. And they won’t put up a fight. They don’t usually have much, but it’s easy to get.” Indeed, the elderly often are too old, weak or ill to avoid assault or defend themselves. Hence, it is not surprising that at night many of them are afraid to venture outside their homes, apartments or perhaps the single-room occupancy hotels where they reside. For that matter, many elderly persons have been mugged in broad daylight.
Assaults upon the elderly take many forms. One New York city police official mentioned “scores of rapes and many of them against women in their 70s and 80s.” At times, older persons die of a heart attack from stress undergone during a mugging. But autopsies reveal that many were strangled, bludgeoned or stomped to death.
Does all of this give you cause for concern? Do you have elderly parents, or aged acquaintances? Are they faring well? Do they need your help? How long has it been since you were in touch with them?
Care of the Infirm and Ailing
Some older persons who are in very poor health are being cared for in the homes of their children or other family members. How heartless it would be to place these elderly parents or grandparents in an institution merely to avoid the inconvenience of caring for them at home! Interestingly, the Bible says: “He that is maltreating a father and that chases a mother away is a son acting shamefully and disgracefully.” “Listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother just because she has grown old.”—Prov. 19:26; 23:22.
In certain cases, however, children may believe that it would be considerate to place their ailing elderly parents in a nursing home or other institution. Why? Perhaps because it is felt that there they will receive good professional care that cannot be provided adequately at home. Naturally, these matters must be decided within the family.
Elderly persons may receive fine care in a nursing home. In some institutions, however, this is not the case. For instance, monetary allowances rightfully due the aged may be withheld. Indifference and neglect may be experienced. That, of course, is not the kind of treatment received from all nursing-home personnel. Far different is the attitude of the administrator who said: “We have two senile ladies who found each other and who spend the entire day together. You know they don’t understand a word you’re saying to them, but they’re so sweet and cute, like children.”
If it appears essential to locate a good nursing home for your aged father or mother, visit a number of them. Be sure to see each floor of the institution. Inspect the bathroom, kitchen, dining and physical therapy facilities. Notice the general atmosphere. Ask yourself, Would I be satisfied to live here, if necessary? Consult inspection reports on the home. Also, obtain any federal and state financial benefits due your parent.
Display Your Concern in Various Ways
Perhaps your aged parents now are confined in a nursing home. How often do you visit them? As their offspring, you can supply something vital—filial affection. Think about the past. When you were small, how comforting it was to have your mother’s loving care, especially when you were ill! And how secure you felt with your father’s arm around you! Does it not seem proper that you should visit your confined elderly parents often and give them assurances of your affection and concern?
There are many ways to show your concern for elderly relatives or friends, whether they reside in institutions or their own homes. For instance, what about writing them cards and letters? Be assured that an unexpected note—warm words of encouragement and love—will be appreciated.
If your aging parents or other elderly acquaintances have a telephone, why not make use of it? Hearing the voice of a good friend or loved one will mean so much to them! Be sure that emergency numbers, as well as your own, are clearly displayed near their telephone. Someday they may need assistance quickly.
Speaking of telephones, why not call your elderly parents or aged friends when you are going to do some shopping? Perhaps you can run an errand for them or pick up things they need. Or, you might invite them to accompany you, if they can. True, this may require extra effort and slow you down a little. But you may have a fine time in company with the elderly.
While it is necessary to respect the right of privacy, you may discern that your aged parents, for instance, are about to take some unwise course financially. Through supersalesmanship, or by some other means, a shrewd commercialist may be trying to take undue advantage of them. Perhaps you can offer them good advice, or can point out where needed information can be obtained. That would be considerate.
Pleasant Hours Together
In these days of lawlessness and trouble, visiting the elderly as often as possible would be an excellent way to show your concern for them. Upbuilding and encouraging conversation is likely to benefit them greatly. And suppose they have failing eyesight. Why not spend some time reading to these elderly ones? Perhaps the choice will be an article on the wonders of creation. Mentally, you and your listener may visualize a woodland scene, hear the song of birds or observe the playful antics of young cubs. If such things should lead to talk about life in the “old days,” so much the better. You can become a good listener.
Especially beneficial is the reading of Christian publications and God’s Word, the Bible. The Scriptures have something to say even about one’s relationship with older friends and relatives. For instance, we are told: “Before gray hair you should rise up, and you must show consideration for the person of an old man.” (Lev. 19:32) According to Jesus Christ, “God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” (Matt. 15:4-6) And the Christian apostle Paul admonished: “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.”—1 Tim. 5:4.
Considering the spiritual side of life, perhaps you can arrange to provide older persons with transportation to and from Christian meetings for Bible discussion. If their condition of health prevents this, you may be able to record some portions of the program and play these later while visiting the infirm. Or, possibly you can outline program highlights verbally. Be assured that such thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
Suppose you have taken your elderly parents to a Christian meeting and you are taking them home after nightfall. You might wait until they are safely in the house or apartment. If they appear at the window, or flash the lights a couple of times as a signal, you will know that they are safe. Better still—maybe you can accompany them to their door.
When visiting the elderly, be observant. Are there dishes to wash? Would it be a fine gesture to sweep the floor? Is there dusting to do? What about the laundry? Of course, you will want to avoid giving the impression that your aged relatives or friends have been negligent. But you can be of great help by caring for matters like these. Do so regularly and reap rich rewards of satisfaction and gratitude.
Why not include elderly ones in some of your own social arrangements? You may be surprised and delighted at their fine remarks and recollections during an evening of quiet conversation. What about inviting your aged parents, for instance, to enjoy a meal in your home from time to time? Certainly this would be a display of thoughtfulness. Do not think that you must spend a lot of money and spread a big feast. There is something much more significant than food. Says the Bible: “Better is a dish of vegetables where there is love than a manger-fed bull and hatred along with it.”—Prov. 15:17.
You cannot turn back the pages of time. Nor can you restore youthful vigor to the elderly. You are unable to do anything about past anxieties and hardships that already have wearied them. Neither can you lengthen their lives. But you can help to remove any loneliness, despair and sorrow they may be experiencing. Show them genuine, active love and concern. By all means, do it now.
“Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” “Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah, in the courtyards of our God, they will blossom forth. They will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness, fat and fresh they will continue to be, to tell that Jehovah is upright. He is my Rock, in whom there is no unrighteousness.”—Prov. 16:31; Ps. 92:13-15.