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On Aging

I was watching a few health and diet related TED talks, always inspirational, but one was focused on how to live to be 100 years old. A few places around the world were visited where centennials are prevalent, and with the expected good habits of plant based foods and regular exercise as a way of life, something else came up and got me thinking. It was the way the elder generation is viewed and treated in these societies. They have the outmost highest respect and authority, and are seen not only as oracles of sorts, but as active and contributing members of their community. I grew up in Russia and I watched my mother and grandmother take care of my great-grandmother in our tiny two-room flat, where she had the best and biggest bed. I remember when they turned her to prevent the bedsores and applied green pasty medicine to the skin of her thighs. I recall feeding the tip of a teapot into her mouth so she could enjoy some warm tea. And how she responded with the kindest of eyes and words. And then everyone came over after the funeral, and I was staring at our usually empty wooden hat rack filled to the top with people’s hats of all shapes and sizes and I was shocked to have so many people at once at our home. Then my grandmother living with us until she fell ill with cancer and passed away at home here, in America, surrounded by family. And I wonder how does this change? How does this culture take the older population and puts them away? What really happens to us as we get past say 75 or 80 years old? How many old people do you see in a day? Why do they become invisible? Are they no longer active consumers (except for the pharmaceutical companies) and therefore excluded from life? Older people in this country are nearly invisible. Many are permanently residing in so called “adult communities”, cared for by strangers, I am sure with more enthusiasm in the swanky and expensive ones, and not so much in the less pricey choices. I do not claim to know the answer by any means. I also understand that individualism and independence are highly valued in this culture. But I wonder how we can include our oldest and wisest members into our lives with more respect, kindness and urgency? None of us are here to stay, and the older we get, the less time we potentially have, and the more wisdom and knowledge we have to offer and share with younger generations. And being around family, kids, those that love and adore us keeps us healthy and alive, gives our daily routines a meaning, a sense to go on, proceed and look forward to tomorrow.