I recall as a child thinking that old people were born that way, with gray hair and wrinkles. I thought to myself, "Ge, I sure am glad, I wasn’t born as an old person. How lucky, I am!"
As silly as that now sounds, I have come to realize that many people don’t understand that the person they see is not the entirety of the person. Rather than see a person’s development, prior life and accomplishments, they see only the current being.
We need to remember that an older person has experienced many different stages of life. They were born, grew through infancy to toddlers, to adolescents, to young adults, adulthood, mid-life and then into their senior years, prior to becoming the person you now witness.
Everybody has not one life, but many. Have you even seen an obituary of an elderly person with a photo of them at a young age? The incongruity illustrates the trickiness of aging. A fresh face stares from the page in defiance of the age at passing, creating an uncomfortable, irreconcilable difference.
Many young people fail to recognize someday they will become an elder. It’s sad that until it happens, they tend to disregard the vast experience, knowledge, value and wisdom that those who have been around the block can offer. They can’t appreciate any of the life lessons that could be passed on because they devalue people due to their age.
Somehow, the old become invisible. Their years of wisdom they accumulated will be lost because, in our society, we fail to see how much they have to offer.
So, the next time you look at an old person, try not only to see who stands before you, but also all the younger versions. Imagine what they may have looked like as a child, a young adult, newly married, a new parent and a grandparent. Remember that they were once young. They experienced first love, high school graduation, college days, marriage, joy, accomplishment, achievement, happiness and likely loss. All those things and more. They have much to offer.
Realize that the advanced-in-years person may have been a head of a corporation, a professional dancer, renowned artist, celebrated author or maybe even a head of state. They have accumulated knowledge over the course of their lives.
If you regard the elderly with respect, perhaps, if given a chance, they might share their lives. If they do, most likely it will prove to be a valuable gift; one that has been many years in its making.
Sue Webb lives near Eagle Point.