October 2021 | Service of Love

Respect the Elderly

Respect the Elderly

Dr. John K. Mathew

In a seminar for senior citizens, a person asked a geriatrics specialist, "When do the signs of old age begin?" The doctor thought for a moment and then answered, "At conception." True!

The body is under constant attack from oxidative stress. Oxygen in the body splits in to single atoms with unpaired electrons.Electrons like to be in pairs, so these atoms/called free radicals scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Free radicals are essential to life.

The body's ability to turn air and food into chemical energy depends on a chain reaction of free radicals. Free radicals are also a crucial part of the immune system, floating through the vein and attacking the foreign invaders.The great irony in human life is that the thing we need most in our life is the very thing that causes oxidation and eventually to death, Oxygen! 

Everybody is getting old. Solomon the great, who knew what life is said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come and the years arrive when you say, I have no pleasure in them." He continues, "Before the sun, light, moon and stars are darkened, and the clouds leave after the rain". We can read it in Ecclesiastes chapter 12. This portion of the scripture gives us three instructions.firstly, to remember our Creator. Secondly, to remember that you and I will be on that stage soon. Thirdly, to remember or not to forget the needs of the old. The emerging generation has a great responsibility to the exiting generation. This responsibility lies not only on their children but on society, as a whole. Even when Indians boast about caring for their elders, the face remains that the elderly and their rights are neglected in India. It is reported that hundreds and hundreds of elderly people are left behind or abandoned on the banks of the Ganges after the Kumbha Mela. This is intentionally done by their own children.

The Western world is generally criticized that their children don't look after the elderly which is true, but the care given to them by the society at large is admirable. Their rights are safeguarded and the society honors it. Quality care is provided to them through different agencies and the Western mind is set to yield to it as they are so accustomed to the individualistic philosophy of life.However, we certainly need to provide all sorts of emotional support to the elderly as they go through their second childhood. What is the best that we can offer to them? Is it money, mansions or medical care?

A nationwide "Older Americans" survey conducted by the colonial Penn Group among two hundred customers over the age of one hundred revealed that material possessions were low on the list of what they considered the most valuable contributors to the quality of life. Most of them believed children, friends and relatives to be life's most precious possessions. When asked what they miss most about the good old days - personal relationships top the list with good health and mobility following close behind. Material possessions were rarely mentioned.

What is the best that we can offer the old? We may say it varies. But deep in our heart, we know that it is our presence. A person for them to relate, speak and have fellowship with.

The Bible says, ''Honor your father and your mother''. (Ex.20:12) "Cursed is he who disrespects his father or his mother."  And all the people shall say, ''Amen." (Deut. 27:16) They desire respect, they may demand respect, but above all they deserve respect. Or ask them, "the former generation, and prepare yourself for what their fathers searched out. For we were born but yesterday and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you, and tell you, and bring forth words out of their heart? (Job 8:8-10).  

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