What do you think when you see an old woman sitting by a lake tossing bread to the ducks? Do you assume that she must be lonely or sad? Do you wonder if ducks are her only companions in her advancing years?
What about the grey-haired man sitting in the corner both at a local café? Is he there as an excuse just to get out of the house? Do you picture his home as four drab walls and a worn out armchair? And the most curious question of all – why don’t we think these thoughts when we see young people on their own?
I used to be guilty of thinking this way. I used to wonder if the people coming and going at the café were a substitute for real connections with family or friends for that old man. That was before I got to know a whole lot of seniors through my work.
This is what I’ve learned:
While it may be true for some, for others this time spent alone is a well-earned, long overdue slice of heaven.
These quiet, contemplating seniors in many cases have lived full lives like the rest of us – chaotic, happy, sad and inevitably challenging.
They have experienced the journey from childhood – in a world very different to ours – to youth and beyond. Most have known the joy and agony of raising children, of working hard to make ends meet, and of saying goodbye to those they’ve lost. And like with most of us that time has sped along in a blur. In fulfilling all the expectations of life they have often had to put their own wants, needs and dreams on the back-burner.
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Now life has slowed down and they have the time that they never had before. Despite the passing of years and the dwindling time that remains, they can now begin to enjoy this new phase. Their duty is done, their responsibilities are behind them and they can choose to spend their days however they wish.
While I don’t doubt that some of their time is spent in re-living past memories – the good and the bad, mourning loved-ones lost and opportunities missed, these years are also a peaceful, satisfying time of life.
Feeding the ducks, feeling the sun on my face, savouring that long, slow coffee amid the bustle of other people’s lives is both a luxury and a privilege that I, for one, am looking forward to.
Aging is a beautiful gift. I have taken care of the elderly in a rest home. Being with them, listening to their stories and enjoying how they look at life. I am planning to age gracefully and enjoy lazy, relaxing days.