The elderly represent the layer of society that holds a reservoir of wisdom and experience.
We see that people with more developed desires, such as scientists, who seek knowledge about our lives and the world, develop more in their practice the more that they age.
When scientists reach their elderly years, they don’t simply stop their scientific work, go on pension and relax for the rest of their lives. After spending a major portion of their lives accumulating knowledge and experience, the older they become, the more they improve in their scientific work. There is no age to seekers of science, knowledge and wisdom.
We should thus respect the elderly because we very much need them and can highly benefit from the wealth of their wisdom and experience.
What would happen if all elderly people were removed from the planet? We don’t feel it, but the world would lose an immense amount of richness and depth.
One of the problems today is that it has become normal to live until the age of 90 and over. When I was younger, the age of 60-plus was considered old, with 70 being the peak. Now it’s over 90. Unfortunately, however, society has yet to realize how to make best use of people in this age group. It is a sign of us failing to best realize what nature has given us.
It’s common to envision our elderly years as those where we detach from the daily grind, go on pension, and find ways to relax and enjoy life till we die. Unfortunately, however, we fail to see how such an approach separates us from the vitalizing spring of human activity that comes from being contributing members of society. Numerous studies today show the physiological and psychological benefits of human contact, and it is no different for the elderly. In addition, death doesn’t come as a result of old age, but as a result of people losing engagement with life.
We should therefore first and foremost understand what elderly people lack most, which is to express themselves. Moreover, in order to let elderly people express themselves, we would need to setup systems that activate their contribution to society.
For example, currently in Israel there is an experimental project that pairs 80-year-olds with 4-year-olds for 2-to-3 hours a day, in an effort that aims to mutually benefit the elderly and the children. I support such an initiative. In general, in the structure of a family spanning 3 generations—grandparents, parents and children—the children can receive a rawer kind of emotional connection from the grandparents than from the parents, one that is pressure-free and more heartfelt. Likewise, the elderly can find plentiful ways to express their many insights from life in sharing with the children, and the children can learn and gain a special kind of attention from their elders.
We should thus respect elders for their wealth of wisdom and experience, and instead of letting the elderly detach and wither away from society, we should rather seek ways to offer them self-expression by being contributing members of society.
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