Youth is a gift of nature; age is a work of art. The gray in the hair and the wrinkles on the skin reflect close encounters with life. Incidents and emotions many of us have just read about have been lived by many elderly people. Ironically, not much is ever said or done about the elder stratum of our society, though they form a nuclear part of each family.
The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between adults and their elderly parents. How can we give an aesthetic and meaningful touch to the nature’s most treasured family ties? We can simply turn the occasional tartness into a treat by retaining our own perspective. Following are the tips that focus on the upside of positive attitude and the benefits we may reap.
Recognize the Child in Them
An old man is twice a child, according to William Shakespeare. No wonder grandparents and their grandchildren often seem to get along so well. However, we apply a different formula to handle both. With kids, we tend to be softer and ignore many questionable situations, taking into account their limited comprehension and experience. Conversely, with older folks we adopt a much harsher attitude, expecting them to demonstrate grace and wisdom always. Just as a child at his worst behaviour needs to be loved and handled with patience, the same applies to the elderly. If we agree that the old age is the second childhood, we should gear ourselves to deal with both likewise – with tolerance!
Help Them Slow Down
If our parents have led a very energetic life, they sometimes refuse to accept that age is catching up with them. Just like any machinery works at its best when it’s new, it needs regular servicing as it depletes. We fail to recognize the signs, and our parents don’t listen to the signals of their body. As children, we also at times expect our parents to function like they did ten years ago. They simply feel frustrated, when they cannot operate with the same vigor and virility. All super parents do get old and need to condition themselves to a gradual slow-down. Children must help them re-schedule their lives with maximum support and assurance that they can still do much but at a slower pace.
Encourage Them to Live on
Age brings multiple complexities in life. Some elderly fall in the trap of taking a pre-mature retirement from the life itself. This may occur after retirement from employment, marriage of children, or death of one of the spouses. Feeling redundant, they wait around for their candle to blow out. Here, we can give them assuage that if they are alive, they certainly are not worthless. It means there is still a plenty they can contribute. For example, they can teach the basic language and mathematic skills to the household servants, pass on familial traits (such as cooking or gardening) to their grandchildren, and do much more depending on their interests, mobility, and health.
Pull Them Away from Dangerous Habits
Richard Carlson comments that the elderly have far more years of bad habits to overcome than youngsters. Having generous portions of time available to them, they occasionally negatively capitalize on it by indulging into gossips. This is an indeed hurtful habit for the ambience of the home. Try to explain to them politely, how such loose conversation invites Allah’s (swt) wrath. You may pretend to place the blame on yourself or other factors for enticing them into starting it. This will save them from embarrassment. In case they do not budge from their stance, distract them with other chores and divert the conversation to more general topics. If nothing works, stop lending them your ear.
Dodge the Criticism
Disraeli has said that youth is a blunder, manhood – a struggle and old age – a regret. Criticism is just a way that certain people express themselves. It says less about us than it does about their need to criticize us. At times, due to hardships of life, our parents become habitual critics. Bitterness entrenches so deep in their lives that they can never appreciate a kind gesture or sincere intentions. Here the job is certainly a tough one, as humans temperamentally demand reward and recognition for their efforts. In such situations, just remember that the One, Who really needs to know and see, is Omnipotent and Omniscient. With Allah (swt) lies our ultimate reward.
Give Them Time
Panin once said that in youth the days are short and the years are long, while in old age the years are short and the days long. Sometimes neglect causes parents to behave inappropriately to warrant attention. Especially, when they feel their worth is no more than an old piece of furniture lying around the house. The best way is to engage them in any possible way. We can ask them to play board games with grandchildren or to share some old tales. We can set exclusive time to have tea or snacks with them in their room. We may discuss current affairs, family issues, hobbies or even seek their advice on their areas of expertise. Besides, they may not be around for long.
Try to be in Their Shoes
Age is a wretched combination of sickness, hopelessness, and dependence. When a case of common cold hits us, we end up becoming miserable. Though with medicines and appropriate treatment it goes away, we are cured by the mercy of Allah (swt). In old age, most of the diseases become a permanent condition. The symptoms differ only according to days, nevertheless, they are to stay. It takes nerves of steel and an iron will-power to fight it daily. This may translate into irritation, which is thrown up on others. According to Simone de Beauvoir, it is this very awareness that one is no longer an attractive object that makes life unbearable for so many elderly people.
Recognize Their Resistance to Change
Michel de Montaigio says: “Has anybody ever seen old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present?” Often, older generation refuses to acclimatize itself to new ideas. This is a natural phenomenon. The nostalgia is so overwhelming that it doesn’t let them part with their past, let alone bury it. This makes them overly critical of all that is new and associated with it. They visit down the memory lane and want others to appreciate it with the same zeal. We do not have to start a heated argument, shooting down their perceptions as being old and outdated. Just open up our mind and close our mouth to draw the best out of their experience. When we get off to a good start, our positive attitude feeds on itself.
Listen to Them
Regardless of age, human beings have an instinctual need to be heard. If we consider ourselves, we tend to like the most those friends, who have a heart to hear us out patiently. Schopenhauer said that the first forty years of life give us the text, then the next thirty supply the commentary on it. The elderly like to relive their memories and occasionally share them with others. This may mean having to listen to their tales over and over again. We should take it in our stride with a touch of humour. One day, we may sound like a broken record playing a song over and over again for our children, too. We can all unanimously attest to the fact that the clocks are ticking also for us.