What Good Are Old People?


“Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone.”
– Dan Brown, American author (b. 1964), Angels & Demons

Old age is not for everyone. Especially not for those who die young. Or for those who intentionally risk losing theirs.

What do most of us know about elderly people, other than what we read? They get weak, become uncoordinated, feeble of mind and forgetful. They must be put into a home for the elderly because they can’t look after themselves and younger people don’t have time to tend to them full time.

And they are notoriously afraid of electronic devices. That is what the media teach us. Endlessly. But is it true?

Of course it is true for the ones we see and for many more who have not looked after their bodies and brains the way those things needed. (I can hear cries now of ageism, thoughtlessly blaming old people for being old. Sorry, no one wants to admit too late that they should have lived their lives differently, better, in a more healthy manner. No one wants to admit they should have worked harder to tend to the needs of their own bodies when they had the chance.)

But it is not true for the majority. The elderly of today are, in general, not like the elderly of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

There are those who are sick. Modern medicine pats itself on the back at how efficient it is at providing medication for whatever problems old people may have. Trouble is, one of the biggest problems that elderly people have is taking too many medications, so many that they lose the active parts of their lives.

Let me give you one example. A neighbour and friend is 87 years of age. His wife died less than a year ago. He remained living in the home they had lived in together for decades. Two weeks ago he had a problem. A visitor arrived and found him in bed having difficulty breathing.

After two days recovering in hospital and eating foods geared to his body’s needs rather than his own meat-only preferences, he felt much better. When asked by his doctor to assess how he felt, he said 8 out of 10. The doctor told him pills would fix up what was wrong with him that causes his “episode.”

One week after he began the pills (about 16 per day) I visited and asked him how he felt. He said 2 out of 10. That fit with the impression I had of his abilities when I arrived. Each of the pills might have been for good purpose, but together they were destroying his life. (He was much improved by the time I left. The hospital had taken him off many of the pills he had been prescribed.)

His risk of death, I believe, would be much less if he ditched the pills completely and ate a better diet. Which, knowing him, he might not do, but that is another story.

Modern medicine is slowly destroying the lives of any elderly person who gets sick. Before this I have seen others of my friends who got drugged up when they got sick and died a few weeks or months later.

What do the non-sick elderlies do? Another friend in his mid 70s skis two or three times each week. He went sky diving to celebrate his 70th birthday. Still another volunteers to help elderlies who can’t get around to get to appointments and shopping. He and his wife also travel around the country attending music and play performances in various cities.

Look at those participating in any common activity these days and you will find retired people. In fact, they are often so busy that they don’t have time to do many activities they want to do. So many ask me why I think they are busier now–well into their senior years and well past retirement–than they were when they were still working.

I tell them I don’t know. But I do know. Upon retirement these active people freed up both their time and their mental abilities to consider all kinds of possibilities they didn’t have time for earlier in their lives. They now have time to think of possibilities. They eagerly get out and do as many as they can.

Look at organizations of volunteers. Their membership is filled with seniors. Go to a hospital and you will find virtually every volunteer position filled by a senior. Service clubs provide great benefits for their respective communities each year, mostly through the help of volunteer seniors.

Volunteering is a great form of socializing as well as of helping others.

These are happy people feeling fulfilled in their lives, often as never before.

What good are they to others? Their volunteering saves fortunes in taxes for municipalities that would otherwise have to pay for services. What the seniors spend–they often spend freely–gives huge boosts to the economy.

Do they share with younger people the wisdom they have gained with the experience of many years of living?

Only with those who will listen. Willingly and freely to them.

Bill Allin is the author of hundreds of articles about life guidance, all available on the internet. Learn more about him at http://billallin.com