Learning from the Elderly: Valuable Resources

Often I wonder why the young people of this nation and around the world refuse to give the elderly the respect that they deserve.
I recently attended, and did a workshop at a Health Expo for Seniors.
It is becoming more and more uplifting to be in an environment where older folks are living life to the fullest. I was particularly pleased to interact with several folks who were living in different stages of Alzheimer’s. It was almost magical the way they “light up” when they are out, and around their peers.
I was reminded of being a meeting of one of the boards I sit on for a medical institution.
It was my first meeting in a couple of months, due to my travel schedule.
What was of interest about this meeting was my inquiry about an older (approx. 85 years old) medical doctor who was a member of the Board whom I befriended when I joined years ago. He had been failing in health in recent years, and hadn’t been to meetings in over 6 months.
I was told that he has died. this isn’t particularly surprising news for a man his age. But what was unusual (or maybe not), was how little mention or acknowledgement the others on the Board paid to his, now, permanent absence.
This was a doctor who was a major figure in his specialty, and made numerous groundbreaking contributions to the field. Yet as I witnessed, he was the butt of jokes by the young doctors who would chuckle when he made comments…even when he made significant contributions to the discussion.

Now, the Board is left with a room full of young doctors, who think they know everything! Gone is a wealth of over 50 years of the practice of medicine, by someone who was considered the top of the profession by his peers, during the course of his career. How arrogant we are, as a society, to think we have the luxury of dismissing this valuable resource!

At the 100 anniversary of the Cuban Public Health System Havana, Cuba

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in our society

Today, old people are considered beings of the past, out-of-date individuals. However, this wasn’t always like this. In other civilizations and history periods they were deemed sources of wisdom and this gave them a significant role within the everyday life of the societies they belonged to.

Anthropological studies reveal that, during prehistory, the elderly were respected and were highly praised for the mere fact of surviving. It isn’t strange then that shamans, wise men in hunter-gatherer societies in charge of practices such as healing, many times were old men.

In the Egyptian civilization, the elderly represented experience and wisdom: they played a significant social role as educators and guides for the youth. In the case of the Hebrews, the elderly had an essential function. Biblical stories in Levitical language about respecting the elderly, and even the Book of Numbers, are records of the creation of a council formed by seventy old men with important activities to carry out.

Some elderly persons are absolutely crazy; however, some are full of the wisdom that if followed, would fix many of the problems of today. I understand that everyone has their different political, social, economical, physical, mental, and psychological ideas and differences. This is how we were created- every man his own.

But there are some things that we can all learn from the elderly, especially the wise ones.