All through human history there have always been old folks. However, never so damn many of us! What’s going on here? Lot of explanations, but in a way they all come down to this basic irony: Young people have been making more old people, and now aren’t quite sure what to do with us.
Our bright young medical scientists are prolonging lives. Great. I’m 81. A hundred years ago, I would probably have been dead at last 30 years. What’s happened is not only a Population Explosion but simultaneously a Health Explosion. At least in most of the nations north of the equator.
As a result, government officials are in a budget quandary…Hallmark Cards is in a selling bonanza … and grandchildren have more grandparents in their lives than ever before in history.
While everyone sorts out these consequences — both good and bad — one pattern has emerged loud and clear. With elders like us hanging around longer, our children have found a way to avoid the old tribal custom of “housing the folks in the back room” once we’re too feeble to go it alone. Behold the multi-billion dollar senior home industry.
While the experts slice-and-dice this new development, the really big issue remains unanswered. What is the best role for those of us living longer, but still in decent health? In ancient cultures — and many non-western ones still today — the elders have traditionally been seen as the “wise ones,” “the voices of experience,” “the prophets.”
Do today’s older-aged elders retain that status? deserve that status?earned that status? Something for a young culture like ours to think about the next time they drive over to Sunset Manor to visit us….
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