I live in a hamlet with a population of 21 people, not in isolation, mind you, but separate from town. Of these 21 people, there are two couples and three widows, all living independently, all in their eighties, except for one, who is 92.
All of these people still look after themselves and their land, where they grow enough to sustain themselves throughout the year, even with enough left over to share with their families who are scattered across the country and Europe. Fortunately for us, they even have enough to share with us. Every week one of them rings our doorbell with an offer of whatever is ready to harvest at that time. Just a few minutes ago, my neighbour brought over two large heads of broad-leaf cabbage. We get everything from fruit, vegetables, to legumes, to nuts, to eggs… and wine! They are very generous people, but also thankful. Why? They tell me that ever since we moved here, years ago now, they have had more peace of mind. You see, whenever they require assistance, they know they can knock on our door. We’re there to fill in the gaps. Whether it be something that requires physical strength, or technical know-how, they know they’re not stuck, and that allows them a little extra freedom, extending their limitations due to their age, so to speak.
In the end, that’s what we all need, a helping hand, when necessary, someone to chat with, when the opportunity arises, to know you’re not alone. Not one of these elderly neighbour/friends has a son or daughter nearby. Since the industrial revolution, people have adopted following the money, that job and its promises of a steady wage and thus an easier life, but everything has its price. Over the decades, the search for the easier life has led us further and further away from home. The family unit has dispersed, and now things that were once taken for granted have become a nuisance. One of those issues is what to do with those who can no longer run on the hamster wheel, those that are no longer “productive”, and require a hand with their day-to-day.
Due to the breakthroughs of medical science, people are living longer, although one can´t ignore the irony; we’re living longer and so we’re digging up ways to reverse the situation with bad habits such as poor eating and lack of exercise. Due to this, in great part, we are living longer, but with poor quality of life due to the health restraints. We live longer, we work longer, the bosses are happy, but by the time we get put out to pasture, many of us won’t be tending a garden, raising chickens or making wine. Most of these people are in a city, with family just as involved in spinning the hamster wheel (as those who are now retired once were). Everyone’s too busy to smell the roses, no time for that. Instead of including the old folks in the recipe, we get busy finding ways to not deal with them. Most people today may never have had the experience of a grandparent, or two, who looked after them when they were children. Older folks used to have an Important role in life. In my town, there are still many grandparents who look after their grandchildren, and adults that look after their parents. Of course, the retirement homes are packed to the limit, but you can still experience the latter. In the past it was a given, there was always somebody around the house to look after any family member, young and old. Today, that’s laughable.
There’s no doubt that there are many older people who need constant assistance, and thus require the care of professionals, but my beef is with a society that has no time for the people who brought them into the world and wouldn’t be where they are today, if it weren’t for them. I’m not blaming the working people; our system is geared to lead all of us into the same situation.
Very few of us can choose to stay home and, along with our retired, bring up and educate the newer members. The situation, in my view, has no fix. It’s like housing, or energy and food prices, to mention just a few. The problem will always exist so long as we choose to live “life”, as we have been doing.