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Sandra Dean – Registered Member

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The subject of age – how much do we really think about the elderly and getting older? Empathy or ignorance? And what about us?

I am being forced, if you like, to think about age. Together with ‘death’, and ‘time’, it’s another topic I usually try to


Me at 41

avoid. They make me anxious, sad and far too thoughtful. But, my parents are ageing quickly, it seems, since losing certain things in their lives and being forced out of their denial of their age. It is sad, but true.

Dad has been going through depression, and now my mum is depressed amongst other things, like forgetting a lot. She feels like giving up. And so, in trying to think of things they have worth living for, and doing my counselling course which gets me thinking a lot now about others (especially how to empathise and not be judgemental), age has been a subject close to mind for a few weeks now.

I realised that I can empathise with teenage angst, for example, because I have lived it. I have been there and experienced it, whilst hanging out with others going through the same. I can, in fact, empathise well with people of varying ages that I have already experienced and with those who have experienced similar situations to me. But, when I think about how it must feel to be eighty three, for example, it is harder to envisage if I have been only in my thirties or forties etc. I haven’t ‘been there’.

One thing that does keep me going is having things to look forward to, and when I was young, I had my whole life, careers, travels, etc to look forward to. I didn’t have to think about it too much.

At middle age, I have processed my younger years, looking back at good times. I have had issues with age around this time (middle age issues), but I have ploughed through those and have found a new enjoyment in middle age, along with the wisdom I now possess.

But, imagine how much wisdom an eighty three year old has? All the changes they have seen through their lives? How they experienced wars, a closer nit environment, a world without all the traffic, noise and pollution… Imagine how they must feel heading towards the end of their lives. Some take it very well, and continue to enjoy life, with less thought about the inevitable. Others ponder. Others worry about what they will leave behind. Having a will becomes more important. Thinking about who to leave what to. Thinking about whether to spend a little money or save it to leave behind to their children, grandchildren or whoever takes their fancy (charities etc). Thinking about their health declining or bodies slowing down.

I think how it must be to have a sound mind in a declining body? Or to have a declining mind in a healthy body.

Do they wonder if they are a burden on their families? About how their life savings or house value might be used to house them in a care home, should it come to it; and how that will dwindle their money away – hard earned money they hoped to give to relatives, for example.

Even worse, with so many elderly having no money spare, how it must feel to be older and be living such a basic life. And with people being so ‘busy’ in this fast paced western world, how people don’t visit them much, don’t understand their needs, don’t have time to help… Of course I am not saying this is the majority or anything, but there are some very lonely elderly people out there.

Many elderly people get overlooked, even if they have family. It may not be that the family don’t care, it’s just that they have not tried to put themselves in the shoes of the elderly person. But asking questions can help. Have a chat about it. Everyone likes it when someone takes an interest in how they are thinking, feeling and what they are doing. My great Aunt lived to be ninety nine and she was like a mother figure to me. I visited as much as I could and really enjoyed our lengthy chats – she was so interesting and a lovely person. I have no qualms about how much time I spent with her, because I tried my best – It was a pleasure to do so. But, other family members didn’t try so hard and that saddened me; still does. It brought to light my appreciation of elderly people when she passed in 1999 and bringing it up in group analysis last week led me to write this blog through the tears.

We get older every day, and one day we might appreciate when someone tries that little bit more with us when we are elderly. It can be a lonely time, with spouses, friends and acquaintances passing away at any time, and if we are left behind, it’s great that we are healthy, but it must be a constant reminder of what is to come. My dad told me yesterday that they have lost all their friends and it must be hard to keep hearing of the deaths of so many people you have enjoyed part of your life with. He seemed sad when he said it.

But, how, no matter what a person’s situation is, a positive mind is what keeps them alive and well. It keeps them looking forward, even if it’s just small things. It makes life worth living. I think ‘age counselling’ would be a good idea for many people, to help them to digest and deal with life moving on.

I am going to stop being sad, and use all my recent conversations with my dad and Chris (who will be sixty next year and has told me about his thoughts on his age and how he feels), plus all my personal thoughts, to make sense of how I am feeling, but also to how they are feeling, and hope that by understanding a little more about that, I can then find ways to encourage and support them. Maybe I can grow older more gracefully that way too! 🙂

We all get older and we have to constantly adapt to changes around us, in our personalities and in our bodies, and I appreciate that now; I am on that bus with all of you.

What are your thoughts?

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13 comments to The subject of age – how much do we really think about the elderly and getting older? Empathy or ignorance? And what about us?

  • Cathleen

    I’ve spent some time getting down the stories of my older relatives before they passed, and I can tell you they all loved it. Every life has a story, and it meant a great deal that I recorded their stories and wrote them down. But even the simple act of listening is affirming. I think I would be delighted if someone wanted to hear my story when I’m quite old.

  • judith b

    HI, this is a difficult one for me. My mother, at ninety-three, has only in the past few months been in care and has rapidly become ‘not my mum’. She is the third close relative of mine who has succumbed to Alzeimers (the others being my aunt and great aunt, both of whom lived with us – four generations under one roof taught our children kindness and compassion). But with my mum I hate it. Where is the woman who laughed a lot – who could swear with the best of them – who understood me? We hold hands, and they’re not the hands I recognise.Her body is frail, her face so thin. And then I look into her eyes and she’s still there – sometimes. And I should rejoice for her long life because, only twelve months ago she was still my mum. And I know she would tell me to “snap out of it!. As a late ‘baby boomer’ I never feel old (well, not unless I’ve partied too much) and I have loads to be thankful for; a good husband, lovely grown up children, gorgeous grandchildren, being able to write, being able to take long walks around the lovely coastline of Pembrokeshire, being free! Yet, sometimes, very rarely, there is that little niggle of fear of dementia. Still, for now, I’ve told my daughter she can’t ever get past the age of forty – otherwise people will think I was a precocious twelve year old – I’ve been fifty eight for a while – er – quite a while. But I have great genes; my mum has shown us that. So, if I’m lucky, I’ll be okay until I’m ninety -something. Then I guess I won’t care! Let’s just live for today. And look after those who can’t.

    • amandagreenauthor

      Hi Judith, I am very sorry to hear of your families Alzheimers. Your mum has certainly reached a fabulous age. Alzheimers/Dementia are one of my three biggest fears. My mum has been changing mentally, but we had it mixed up with her long term mental health issues. She had a terrible fall two and half weeks ago, breaking many bones and puncturing her lung. That week we had seen a big drop in her mental capabilities, and had been referred for a brain scan and a care assessment, as my dad has been her sole carer for a very long time. While she was asleep in intensive care, I asked the doctor to look at the brain scan and he diagnosed mini strokes leading to Vascular Dementia. My mum is now awake, but she is not my mum anymore. I am very sad. I feel she has suffered enough challenges in her life. But as you say, we do have to live for today and look after those who can’t. Well said Judith. Every time I am very sad, I remind myself that my mum would not want me to be sad – she would want me to be laughing and enjoying myself. It’s hard to do, but I am determined to be a bright as I can be. You sound like you have a lovely life. I too worry about getting dementia, especially as I have suffered so many mental health issues over the years. 🙂

  • Lloyd L

    I’m almost seventy and when my mother was 89, a few months before her death, she told me that every morning when she woke up, she felt as if she were fourteen again until she looked in a mirror. To remind myself of how I look to others, I make sure to look in a mirror every morning because it is very easy—at least for me—to not think of myself as old and how other, younger people see me with their eyes. After all, age is perceived by how we look. If we stopped physically aging at, for instance, 25, would anyone know if we never told them or chronological age?

    This might sound strange, but if I were given a chance to be young again, I’d probably say no, because I’m having a much better time living life now than I ever did before I retired from working for a living. I started work at 15 and spent 45 years in the workplace and for the most part, it wasn’t something I’d want to do for a thousand years if we lived that long.

    And if someone were to offer me immortality and youth, I’d counter offer with, “How about just stopping the aging and let me look like I do now.”

    • amandagreenauthor

      Glad you don’t feel your age Lloyd, that’s great! My body feels older than I am, but my mind is much younger. I don’t think that’s strange – I wouldn’t want to be younger again now; I like my growing wisdom and empathy. It must have been lovely to retire! 🙂

  • Carol H

    Speaking as a 64 your old, I think about this a lot. It is scary to imagine biots of you dropping off, or disappearing into some baacl hole. Then there’s the constant media criticism of us ‘bed blockers’ and how we’re are a ‘drain on the NHS’.

    Yep. It’s all worht thinking about. And I do.And then I go and have a glass of red wine and some chocolate and think: sod it!

  • Anita

    I’ve been worrying about age too. I feel like I’m steam rollerering ahead to my old age. It’s going so fast now!
    I looked after my gran when she was on her own and her health wasn’t the best and it was one of the greatest times of my life. It was hard, yes, but I had time to be there with her that other families didn’t and I want so grateful.
    I do worry about being on my own in my old age as I don’t have many close family and friends live far and wide but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it I guess.
    I’ve noticed age creeping up on me too with the way I look etc but still feel I’ve got another 10 years until the wrinkles and baggy skin set in. Least I hope I have!!
    But I also think old age can be both a curse and a blessing. A blessing as some don’t gave the privilege of old age and others because they are elderly and suffering and just want to die but can’t.
    I’ve always said I know I’ll live til ii’m about 90 because life has a sense of humour! But I’ll be going round on mobility scooter with a basket full of gin and a fag on determined to get the old bag to pop her clogs.

    • amandagreenauthor

      Ah Anita, you made me laugh – I can visualise that, reminds me of Madge in ‘Benidorm’. You look great right now, so you have a long way to go before the bags set in my love. True about old age being a blessing. I failed to think about that for my blog, and it’s a great thing to contemplate because so many do not get to be adult or middle aged, let alone old aged. We should be thankful for where we have got. YES 🙂
      I expect to be pretty alone if I get to an old age too, but like you say I shall cross that bridge when I come to it.
      I do not worry at all about myself with being elderly or my death – it’s more scary, for me, to think about those close to me getting old, ill or passing away, because I will be the one left behind to mourn. xxx

  • Rachael P

    Well firstly, you look fab at 41! Great blog post – I think positivity is a tonic, and must be especially so in old age. If I’m ever at a bus stop or in a shop queue I like to chat to any older people there. When I’m not working I can totally imagine how isolated many of our elderly must feel as, unless you can venture out, there may be days when you don’t see or speak to anyone. We should all make an effort with our elderly and support them. Their worries may seem trivial to us but such worries become huge issues when you have little else to focus on. I, too, am settling into middle age and quite enjoying it… most days ☺

    • amandagreenauthor

      Well thanks Rachael, you do too! I like to chat to older people when I’m out too. I used to go to a cafe where mainly elderly went – good home cooked meals, but they closed up which was a shame. I often wonder where all those regulars go to now as it was social, got them out of the house and got a good, cheap meal inside of them. You are right, sometimes they are accused of moaning too much too, but crumbs, it must be tough to remain upbeat all the time. Yes, if little else to focus on, then small things can seem big – my dad is suffering with this at the moment. All his appointments seems like a never ending to do list, but if he had nothing to do he’d feel even worse. Well if you are enjoying most days, then you are doing well xxx

  • emma

    Hi.this has really made me think about my nan.and my parents how i find my nan difficult.but as you pointed out.shes lost a lot of her friends.cant get out the house without someone being with her.she cant cook a proper must be hard for when she has a visit yes she talks about how she hurts and feels low.i have to concider she has no one going to calk her tonight and more often.thankyou for making me think xxx

    • amandagreenauthor

      Aw Emma, I am so glad you read this and found it made you think. We are often so caught up we don’t allow time to think. Your Nan is in a difficult situation. Good for you, talking is great xx

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