Is it really any wonder that elderly people generally develop some form of dementia? Think about it for a moment…particularly if you’re in your 80s or 90s. I mean, at one time or another, we have been anti-gay, anti-straight, anti-conservative, anti-liberal, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, and certainly anti- anything that even smacked of an Asian/Buddhist/Taoist/Maoist/Istist religion. We’ve been anti-war, anti-peace, anti-cult and anti-freeze. We hate the cold in the winter and heat in the summer. We dislike people who garden and think those who don’t are selfish and perhaps even narcissistic. Given the degree of negativity we possess, thank the good Lord for the number of younger, and as yet initiated, go-getters who have kept us on our daily trip around the sun.
Why are we the way we are? Well, let’s see. In my own case, I’ve seen one really bad world war and several shooting situations where others were trying to kill Americans and Americans were trying to kill others…generally because someone in America decided way back when that when the shit hits the fan, America will always come to the rescue. This ‘someone’ by the way is not one of those who will be doing the shooting or getting shot at by others…unless, of course, you happen to enjoy hunting with Dick Cheney. The advice then is to watch yourself at all times. If you happen to live in the Middle East, you have probably been fighting and killing since you were a child, if only because the tribal elders of one group decided that they had been insulted by the tribal elders of another group…you figure it out because I sure as hell can’t. Should you happen to live in Europe, your borders appear to shift with the wind. One year you’re this; another year you’re that. You must adjust to the political whims of whoever wants to be on top this time around. Are you beginning to see why old people get a bit whacked out every now and again?
We have been terrorized not only by other people but by things of which we cannot even conceive. For example, polio, that dreaded crippling killing disease. According to NPR, “In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive. Rich kids as well as poor were left paralyzed.” It was the year I graduated from high school, and the year I lost a friend to the disease. Again and again, unseen germs or diseases of another kind have threatened us. While we’ve made great strides, cancer is still with us; is still killing; is still as unpredictable as ever. Zika and killer bees pose new threats, but who knows what they will bring?
We are a strange breed, we things called ‘man.’ We are generous to a fault and as stingy as Scrooge. We, not the old Soviet Union, are a riddle, wrapped in mystery, inside an enigma” but as Churchill also noted, perhaps there is a key. That key is our own self-interest. Therein lies the reason we are as we are. We are molded by the lives we live and lead. There is a degree of selfishness in all of us, deny it if you dare. It’s really quite strange how we proceed through life with the views that we hold at one time or another. In our early years, those views are based on what our parents and our social grouping believe. As we age, we attempt to form what we think of as our own views but which, if we are truthful about it, are based just as much on the beliefs of others as our own.
So, from those of us who are old and demented, to those of you who are young and as yet unimpaired, be kind. We once were as you are now. We watched our world turn from the rose-colored glasses of our youth, to the mud-spattered and scratched glasses of our aging. Advice? Sure, advice is cheap so I’ll give you all that I’ve got. When they tell you you’re wrong, don’t believe them. When they tell you no one will listen, keep talking. When they tell you it can’t be done, remind them of the poem by Edgar Albert Guest:
“Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!”