As humans, we end up almost like we started out. In fact, people who take care of the elderly in homes will say that they feel like pre-school teachers or day care workers caring for infants and toddlers. Some of the striking similarities between daycare and elder care are explored below.
Both babies and very old people have a hard time listening, and they can get on our nerves. At least babies have the excuse of being new to language, whereas the elderly, even with hearing aids, do not seem to understand what we are talking about. Special translators are sometimes required.
Babies and the elderly need to be driven around everywhere. They both have a hard time talking, and when they do, we are not always sure of what they are saying. Babies are just learning to communicate with words, while old people do not speak up. In the words of the great novelist, Agatha Christie, “old people are like children, really. Only children are far more logical, which makes it difficult sometimes with them. But these people are illogical; they want to be reassured by your telling them what they want to believe. Then, they are quite happy again for a bit.”
They both have wrinkles, need to be watched, are loved by many, have continuous doctors’ appointments, keep staring at things, get lots of attention and have special carts at grocery stores. They do not have very good memories, have little hair, get sick easily, are fragile, have few or no teeth, and make weird and/or loud noises without knowing why. They also need to be in wheelchairs or strollers.
Nevertheless, we need these two groups. Babies are the future of all societies. They need to develop and to build up nations when they grow older. Also, it is vital to have wise old people guide us in our societies. They give counsel to the younger generations. Needless to say, the types of things old people can tell us in conversations cannot, for some reason, be read in books.
Previously, people expected that when they got old or retired, they would be taken care of financially, emotionally, physically and psychologically by their kids. It was a type of unwritten and mostly undiscussed reciprocity rule, an insurance policy of sorts. These aspirations were realized for many centuries. However, things are different now. Many adults prefer to remain unmarried and not create nuclear families. One outcome is that, through this process, many young people avoid the responsibility of taking care of their parents and grandparents as they do not create their own families. Also, a significant percentage that get married are having just one or two kids, while many others have none, as opposed to an average of five children many years ago. Oddly enough, however, even with fewer kids around we don’t seem willing to transfer those resources to caring for the elderly.
These young adults should not bear all the blame. People have less time for themselves and their children due to their work schedules and associated professional responsibilities. Some of the causal factors are the changing demographics of the workforce, faster technological change, and increased mobility—the fact that more young people leave their home towns.
Babies and the elderly both depend on those of us in the middle for their survival and comfort. We also depend on them—the hope of the future and the wisdom of the past. We must not forget our duty, as individuals and as a society, to care for and love them.
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