Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Speaking Out: Treasure the gift of our elderly

By  Sarah Wentzell, Youth Speak News
  • April 15, 2020

Two of my grandparents have shown me by example what it looks like to live a life of true Christian values.

My maternal grandmother encourages me with her devotion to the Church as a lay Carmelite, and taught me cheerful and patient acceptance of suffering. My faternal grandfather has passed away,  but taught me compassion in the way he tenderly cared for his seriously ill wife for many years, and inspired me with the way he loved and advocated for nature.

Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, once said: “The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” 

How true. The elderly have a wealth of life experience and their sage advice can be a source of strength in our dilemmas.

In an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile towards the elderly, with the COVID-19 pandemic and euthanasia rates soaring, we must stand up for their value in our society. They inspire, teach and encourage us in our endeavours. 

I find that many of the elderly are happy to share their stories and love it when young people are interested in what they have to say. They have diverse and rich knowledge to pass on to us. 

As well, the elderly link us with our history. Learning about their lives helps me to feel connected in a special way to my ancestors and the people who lived before me.

Their stories help bring history to life and make it more tangible. When I hear stories about my grandparents, I can see bits of myself in them — my grandmother shares my love of writing, and my grandfather loved poetry as I do.  

For young people like myself, we have to remember that, inevitably, one day we will be elderly, fragile and likely needing assistance. We need to treat the aged with compassion and understanding, and take care of them with love, just as they have loved and supported us.

The inventor George Washington Carver summed it up: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because some day in life you will have been all of these.”

Often our society judges people on how successful they are in their career, while overlooking the importance of prayer, tenderness and friendship. Prayers are an extremely powerful, although often undervalued, tool. My grandmother recently mentioned that after wondering why she is still alive at 85, she decided that God is calling her to a ministry of prayer for others. 

The elderly are precious for lighting up our lives. I remember someone once commented to my grandfather that taking care of my grandmother, who had been a quadriplegic for two years before her death, must have been a burden. My grandfather replied it was never a burden for him, because he loved her and was happy to take care of her.

The elderly deserve our respect because of their wisdom, our sympathy for the sorrow they have undergone and our love because of who they are.

(Wentzell, 16, is a Grade 11 student in Seton Home Study School in Thunder Bay, Ont.)

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