In my recent travels, I asked a Fijian native how they celebrate the Christmas holiday and I was surprised at his answer. He told me that all the members of the community come together to celebrate the eldest of their families. He went on to explain that they could not be sure of how much time they had left to spend with their elderly and that the seniors in their community had contributed so much over the years they were honored to make the holiday about them.
How foreign and still somehow lucid this thought seemed to me.
We have a large population of seniors in Kelowna and it seems part of our culture to brush them aside, to blame them for driving too slow during rush hour or holding up lines as they count out their pocket change. Seniors are blamed for the 6 hour waits at the hospital to see a doctor. They are criticized for being bitter, entitled or for spending too much time spying and gossiping.
But ever since my recent encounter with another culture I wondered if we might have it all wrong in the way we see the seniors in our community.
The elderly around us have done it all for much longer than we have. They have been where we are and beyond. What is important to them now is relationships, and we could all learn something from that. We could benefit from taking time to chat with each other more often. They have put their hours into our society and continue to contribute to the gardens, community functions and neighborhood watches. They have struggled through emotional and physical trials and come out the other end stronger and with valuable advice for us.
I’ve always felt our culture has an unhealthy view of aging. We avoid the thought of illness and death. We buy hair dye and skin cream in bulk. We don’t like looking into the eyes of the elderly and facing the undeniable future that we too will grow older.
But what if the young celebrated the elders? What if we looked up to them for guidance and sat in awe of the many interesting stories they had to tell us? What if we spent our holidays honoring their accomplishments and valued time spent with them?
If we could change the way we view our elderly, we could not only look forward to growing older, our lives would be richer for the blessing and wisdom of the aged.