This morning I was drawn to a poem that a friend had ‘liked’ on Facebook, although poignant and fully indicative of how we tend to see and treat our elderly, I couldn’t help feeling I had seen something very similar before…
In fact I had, and although it was ‘sold’ as something ‘new’ originating (in this case) from Australia, a little reasearch on the internet proved it to be something of an ‘urban legend‘ over twenty years old and attributed to various sources, but it was still a relevent one.
The poem was actually written by a Texan called Dave Griffith from Fort Worth, originally titled Too Soon Old it was penned more than 20 years ago. It was a simple illustration of his own personal life from high school football, to his marriage and on to the ravages of his own disabilities. The poem was taken from the authors website, a false story was created about how the poem originated and it was circulated via e-mail and on the internet (see here).
But many urban legends, distributed by e-mail or the internet, are actually used to illustrate or highlight a particular issue, in this case the plight of our elderly and the care they receive, or sadly, often don’t.
I’ve always admired the way in which other nations protect and provide for their elderly, how a predominant family and social ethic breads respect for the elders in a community. I have to concede this ethos is more prominent in what many would term third world countries but, despite the apparent decline, it’s still appears to be a trait that can be found in many areas of Europe.
But it appears to me that the more rural the area, the greater the levels of family and community ethics that still exist. I suppose the lack of respect we have for our elderly is only indicative of the overall lack of respect we have for anyone these days, irrespective of age. We may proudly boast of high levels of respect in our diversity policy documents but how many really practice what they preach and/or write? Perhaps we all need to distance ourselves a little more from the ethics of the urban rat-race?
The media often report about the raw deals metered out in elderly health care and how, despite pensioners own past prudence, they are often financially disadvantaged when they actually reach old age. But even our political parties are still “at war over funding of care for the elderly” (see here). All these issues continue to worsen, despite having been raised in the early days of the recession (and before).
Around 9m pensioners rely on some form of investment income to supplement their state pension, according to government calculations. The average income from these sources is just £51 a week – a modest sum that elderly people use to boost their basic state pension of just £90.70 a week…(telegraph.co.uk)
Many people understand the financial and social impacts of our aging society today however; “only a quarter of fifty somethings are financially prepared for retirement” (source). But those who did actually plan for the eventualities of their old age are now realising their plans are now almost worthless. Is it any bloody wonder they are a little crabby?
Crabby Old Man
What do you see nurses? …What do you see?
What are you thinking……when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man,…..not very wise,
Uncertain of habit ……..with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food…….and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice …..’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice ….the things that you do.
And forever is losing ………….. A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not………..lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding … The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?…….Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse……you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am ……… As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,…….as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten…….with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters ………who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen ..with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now……….a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty ……..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows……..that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now …….. I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide ….And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ……….. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other ……. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons ….have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me…….to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ……… Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children …….. My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me …… My wife is now dead.
I look at the future …………I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing……young of their own.
And I think of the years…… And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man………and nature is cruel.
‘Tis jest to make old age …….look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles……….grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone……..where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass ….. A young guy still dwells,
And now and again ……..my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys…………..I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living………….life over again.
I think of the years ..all too few……gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact……..that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people ………open and see..
Not a crabby old man…..Look closer….see……..ME!!
We would all do well to remember this poem when we interact with the elderly; old age impacts upon us all eventually and they should receive our tolerance, respect and care, despite their often crabby nature!
Then again, perhaps we could all adopt George Carlin’s philosophy for old age, maybe that would help?