By Mira Khatib
She woke up feeling energized, rode her bike to her Yoga class. Soon after she went to her part time job as a cashier; it was not so much the job itself but interacting with people that inspired her. For lunch she met up with some of her friends, laughed and chatted while they ate. She wanted to join them for some shopping but remembered it was Tuesday; the day she volunteers at the community center. By 5 it was time to go back home and lift up her feet, feeling exhausted yet happy to be alive and all of that at the young age of 68!
Have you seen any elderly people out and about in our society? Where are they? If they are not being pushed around on a wheelchair by someone once in a blue moon then we walk around forgetting they exist. It is very disheartening when some reach the age of retirement; they suddenly find that they have nothing to do and nowhere to go, especially if they do not have the support or financial stability. They end up living their days at home in front of the T.V. between drama series and news, eating, sleeping, getting depressed and probably complaining of aches and pains while waiting for death.
Is that what they worked for all their life? Struggling to make ends meet and when it is finally time to reap the benefits of their hard work, they end up in most times withering away slowly and painfully.
What I noticed in Canada that most of the elderly there begin living once they retire. After all their years of giving it is time to sit back and enjoy life without much worry. And it is not that difficult to do so, with government support, and enjoying many benefits whether discounts at stores, restaurants or having special community centers to meet others, engage in great activities and spend quality time with people. Growing old in Canada is not a daunting experience, growing old doesn’t mean giving up on life and stop living, on the contrary over there growing old means let’s make the best of what is left and grow old with grace and dignity.
Unfortunately some Arabs are conditioned that old age means a certain demeanor it is more respectable to stay home, dress in a certain way and act in a certain way, a way that many times confines the spirit of a person not necessarily reflecting their soul inside. Most of those seniors fall ill out of depression, as feeling helpless, useless and not wanted or needed makes them more prone to sickness and bad health. It doesn’t have to be that way… it shouldn’t be that way.
The thought of me growing old in our society terrifies me, and although I raised my children to be loving, attentive and respectful yet I cannot see myself depending on others not even them. Being constrained by cultural influences and lack of mobility maybe forcing me to be like a prisoner in my own home, aging away with no goal other than to wait…wait till it’s time to close my eyes one last time.
Maybe some think I am being too harsh; that with old age comes a big financial burden of medical bills and daily expenses, one that adds weight and inconvenience on those who end up obligated to help support those elderly members. So it is easier and less hassle if at least the old stay at home quietly causing less bother. But I just can’t accept that, those wrinkled faces are our mothers, fathers, grandparents the people so dear to us, we have to find a way to help them keep on living to the fullest and not give up on themselves, help them to take advantage of the simple pleasures left in life.
Now we are still enjoying our youth and strength feeling on top of the world, but what comes of us when it is our time to face the inevitable aging process? How do we go from being productive to being futile? We have to make a conscious change and not only for those aged we care for, but for our future selves as well, as we cannot stop the hands of the clock from turning but we can stop the circulated attitude towards growing old. Now is the time for change.