04 Apr The Value of the Elderly
There was a time in my life, when I chose to stay home to raise my children. I chose to be time-rich at the expense of my career and of our financial growth. I will also state here that I was very blessed to have been able to make that decision and understand that even though many women would like to choose that option, their circumstances do not allow for it to happen. To those women – “I take my hat off”. I also understand that there are other women, who choose career and the financial stability path. To those women – “I take my hat off”. And yet there are women that choose to stay home, because they can and want to, whilst others choose to work because they are happier that way. All of you -“I salute your choices”.
Now here’s the down-side of not working – ‘all your friends are!’
In this period of time, my husband was on his own path to financial stability and I never saw him- let alone went on a date night. My God- a date night, was this even a reality in people’s lives or invented by the couples with no kids to make us ‘married with children’ feel really trapped? And why do childless couples NEED date nights any way – what’s there to argue about?
The point here is- I really didn’t have a social life. Consequently, every time my Mum met with her friends, she invited me to join. There was a group of about 15 women, nearly all who had lost their husbands that met to celebrate each other’s birthdays amongst other things. I was not yet 40, and yet the average age of the group would have been about 75.
I was driving to a restaurant one day, to celebrate someone’s 80th birthday and I remember thinking,
“I am so unlucky- here I am with free time on my hands- I so wish there were ladies of my age that could attend- why does all my socialising have to be with the elderly?”
Don’t get me wrong, they were lovely ladies but they weren’t really interested in the things that me and my friends talk about.
To add insult to injury, one lady, older than me, dropped off her mother to join the celebration and as she was leaving she looked at me and said, “Don’t you have a social life Tania?”
As time went on, I found myself getting quite excited whenever an event was scheduled. I listened to these ladies stories, their challenges, their banter, and how they dealt with adversity. I watched their reactions and how they interacted with one another. I watched them laugh. I saw them cry. I listened to their opinions and advise whenever I shared my problems or thoughts.
One day I found myself at a lunch to celebrate Kelly’s 100th birthday- YES her 100th birthday. I looked around the table, 94, 91, 85, 76, 67, 72, 80 were the respective ages, right down to my sister in her 40s who had taken a ‘Rostered Day Off’ to join us.
“WOW”, I thought, “Look at these ladies, they are amazing.”
As I looked around I saw these happy ladies, all widowed, all fast approaching 100, all smiling, all partying. I felt so inspired by this group.
See as the years passed by, I had my own life struggles, and indeed was introduced to some not so pleasant side effects of the aging process, like mysterious pains. I suppose too as your body is faced with more limitation, you have a new found respect for those that are still smiling at 100 years of age.
So what was it that kept these ladies going, what was their secret?
I took the opportunity, at Kelly’s 100th Birthday celebration to explore some of the reasons behind their longevity and their associated happiness. I asked each and every one sitting around the table, firstly if they ever exercised. Not one of them ever exercised. So I moved to the Food Debate- what did they eat? They ate what they felt like- mostly cooked at home and very often (but not always) some of their produce was grown at home. Although these ladies made a more than comfortable living, most of them came from humble beginning. Mostly they worked hard in their younger years. Very few of them lived the pampered life.
Now I am not advocating an exercise free life. I love to exercise – occasionally. I do believe it does have health benefits for those who choose it.
So what was the one element they all had in common?
Over the years I had come to realise that these women took every single thing that happened to them or in their life- in their stride.
No one ever had a “poor me” mentality. It happened, get over it, and get on with it. If something could be done to rectify a situation – they did it. If nothing could be done- they accepted it. Even with situations or events that would be considered tragic, they still sought ways to make life better for themselves and everyone in their circle. Their happiness was not dependent on a perception on how life, “should be treating them”.
No one was better than them, but no one was less than them either. Their strength came from sharing and giving. Did they always agree with one another? No they didn’t. But what I did notice was that no matter how differently they thought, their mental stance was never associated with an emotion. They may have had opposing mental stances, which they defended via many discussions and examples, but this NEVER created bad energy between them. “Your opinion is yours, you are entitled to it, and whether I agree or not, I will defend to my death your right to have it”- as the great quote goes. Their opinions were honest and respected for the varying perspectives from which they came. It was all open for debate, designed to unite them not separate them.
They had realised that alone they were limited but united they became stronger.
As I drove home from this celebration, I realised how much I had learned from these ladies, how much they had shaped my attitudes and my thoughts. This was the point when I remember thinking,
“How incredibly lucky I was to have spent these years, with these elderly women”
I remember looking up and saying:
“thank you, thank you, thank you”