The old lady shuffled her way from her car towards the footpath. But up ahead, there was a step and no pole to lean against to help her up. She looked for a pole for support, slightly concerned, then saw one and turned towards it. We were walking along that footpath a short distance away and saw the old lady’s efforts. My husband stepped forward ‘to the rescue’, striding up and offering her his arm to lean against.
I felt so much from this encounter. This old lady needed support, we were there to offer it, and it was graciously accepted. But I felt there was more to it; I realised how unique this lady was for her age and with that realisation, felt sad that her actions are not more commonplace, and that older people do not always accept support so graciously, which makes it harder for others to offer support.
I know many older ladies who would have acted differently that day. More often than not, when I go to help older people, most say things like, ‘I’m sorry to be such a burden’ or ‘Silly me, not being able to get up a step’. Some even resent the help offered, jealous of another person being capable when they are not, or they may even deny that they need help.
I’ve come to question why is it that older people do not allow themselves the permission to not be as capable as they once were? We watch babies learning to walk and if they fall over or fall down stairs, they simply pick themselves up, or we pick them up, with no imposing expectation of whether they should be more capable, or not. The babies aren’t judging themselves either.
To witness an older person growing older and not denying their limitations is really beautiful.
Their honesty is refreshing. It also builds empowerment as they allow themselves to be where they are at with no apologies, and are able to accept support graciously, which then allows others to enjoy offering it.
Older people take note: it is easy to think that the young rule the universe. But they don’t. They really don’t. The value that You, as an elder of society, offer the young is very powerful when you can grow old and have no judgment on yourself and no expectations of what you should be able to do or not do.
When You can let go of your own expectations of yourself and graciously accept love and support from others more capable than you with no degrading of yourself, this is Immense –with a capital I!
I would love to see all old folk growing old gracefully, allowing themselves to wind down and live old age with ease, growing graciously older.
It would offer me, as one of the ‘young ones’ (at forty something!!) a living example of how I could be in my own elder years, which is very comforting. They would be showing me a way of being old that is without the intensity that often surrounds ageing, and is instead delicate and lovely. Now wouldn’t that be a wise way to see out your life?
Suzanne A., Australia
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