The regular readers of my column may recall that I talked about an old gentleman helping his mother walk every morning in the park where I do my daily walking/jog routine. Then, all of a sudden, I stopped seeing them. Sad and intrigued as I was, I even changed the time I went walking, to no avail. And after a fashion, I figured something had happened, and I stopped thinking about them altogether. Until yesterday.
They had not changed a bit. She, still walking helped by a walker and him, still wearing those oversized earphones. With an unmatched gentleness, he guides her steps, one at a time, one before the other. They never talk. How could he, wearing these ear things. But the fact that he is there, helping her, maybe even taking care of her, is incredibly tender and sweet. Especially nowadays, where the elderly are considered a nuisance, where companies conglomerate to profit on the perceived offering of happiness. I say perceived, because the truth is darker. In those places, as magnificent as they look, in those places, often, loneliness reigns. There is also the occasional abuse (I say occasional because I really have not researched numbers and I would hate to inform you with incorrect facts. I have a feeling however that it is more prevalent than we are led to believe) and its underreporting. Each time I enter one of those facilities I feel a heaviness I simply cannot explain. There are few smiles. Few words. The residents are moody, bad moods reign galore. It seems unhappiness becomes the reason for their crabbiness.
But this is today’s way we deal with our elderly. Putting them somewhere in glorious rich looking facilities while trying to visit, once a month. If it doesn’t interfere with our lives, that is. And sadly, the trend is taking stock globally. Where once before, the children were the ones taking care of the elderly, nursing homes conglomerates, with fancy advertisements advocating that aging is fun, playing golf and shuffleboard, with evenings of variety, are taking over. Yet, there are few visitors. No children or grandchildren hanging out … no laughter …. No naughtiness … just loneliness. Utter tragic loneliness.