The Culture of Aging

I am writing this sitting in my favourite restaurant in Granada, Nicaragua, The Garden Café, I’m having breakfast, a strawberry smoothie, coconut French toast, fruit bowl, and coffee (the best).

In the last week I have been thinking about aging and the different ways the senior population are treated around the world! (Seen through my eyes).

First of all in North America, we have senior homes etc., some are very posh, but the reason I am working on the concept of Betty’s Mountain Top is because of what I have seen in Canada. What happened to my Mother, having spent time in many hospitals, nursing homes, and how she and us, at that time I was married with 2 young children dealt with it all.

My memory is of obligation of going every Sunday afternoon, and trying to keep Jody and Julie quiet in a small space, she loved seeing the kids, they called her Nana. I remember how few visitors the other patients had. Yet all through my Mother’s various health issues, 2 factors always seemed to be the same, the loneliness and not feeling valued. I always felt that in many cases people were just waiting to die.

What I think is so important is that people are valued and that as they age, they can still contribute to society in some way, also respect is another word I would use. Most of the seniors I have met have a tremendous knowledge base, but I tell them that they must stay CURIOUS and, OPEN to themselves and about the world, plus stay VITAL enough to share their knowledge!!

As I write this I have left Granada with a driver to travel for 2 hours to the coffee capital of Nicaragua to speak with NGO employees, that work with poor people, on topics including attitude, happiness, and empowerment, with an American translator, I hope, or I am in big trouble!! I love doing this stuff!! I am spending the night on a coffee plantation in the mountains; this coffee plantation has one client, Whole Foods, in North American.

In many parts of the world, aging people live with children or other relatives, depending on the relationship; they can have a vital life with family, or terrible and just stay in their room!

European’s seem to value aging family member’s more than we do in North America, they still seem to have active role and a say in day-to-day family life.

In Nicaragua, and I am sure rest of Central America and South America, a lot of military men that have served in Iraq and elsewhere etc., live here, marry young women and they are looked after very well for the rest of their lives. On the streets you will see youngish women pushing wheel chairs with old Americans in them.

In Penang, Malaysia and Mauritius the older person is very valued as part of society. Yes, I have to bring up India, older people are part of family and are usually helping to bring up kids, doing the cooking etc., and the younger members of the family usually go to them for advice, when they have to make decision.

Spiritual groups also seem to value the older person in a very loving way. I have seen this with the BKs (Brahma Kumaris), many times over!

I have met many aging people on my travels, two that leap to my mind, grandmothers in Africa looking after grandchildren, because of AIDS!

And the bare breasted grandmothers in Borneo running the kitchens of the long houses, bossing everyone around, in charge of meals for 30 to 40 people.

So, these are just my random thoughts on what I have seen around the world.

Would love your comments!!



8 thoughts on “The Culture of Aging

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  1. Thanks Marilyn , for your own thoughtful comments, and your Mother is very lucky to have you and your sister!
    How Is your health?
    Love. B
    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  2. There is so much in thought with aging. Watching my mom who only 3 years ago was a vibrate, active woman. Now slowly becoming more of a shut in due to health. She lives alone, and out of town. I have a sister who lives close to her. My sister will do anything for her, which is a wonderful thing. Mom wants to live independently, yet, lately feeling guilty as she relies so much more on my sister for little things. Such as going shopping, as walking tires her out so easily. I call Mom everyday to check in on her. I am the one with the big shoulders, to cry upon, which is to my honour. We both would love Mom to move in with us, but she would rather move into a senior home. Here is the sad part, she is of the mindset she needs to leave a small something when she passes.Of course, my sister and I don’t care about this whatsoever, but it is important to her. She is not a wealthy woman, and she continues to delay moving into a home due to the cost. She is so afraid that she would run out of money, and have nothing to leave behind her. Sadly I know so many in that same boat. She is lonely. She has a great support system including the March of Dimes who come everyday to sit with her for a few minutes, which is wonderful to break the day of silence and isolation. She misses her husband, and now has only one sister left from a large family. I think the main issue is that she does not want to be a burden upon anyone. When she was young, her grandparents lived next door. The family was a big family, and the grandparents were very much involved in their lives. Nowadays, living in an urban setting the cost of having two houses side by side is not very practical for most families. To live together is fine, but the need of space can be a challenge. People migrate to find jobs, and that creates the setting of elder isolation. Not on purpose, just the way life unfolds for many today. I look at myself, where already 2 of my children live out of town. One seriously looking on moving to the states. As I too am aging, the thought of them being so far away is not easy but I do understand one needs to go where their passion and work maybe. Not sure if there is an answer for the situation, and I also know Mom is not the only person in such a place. We do the best we can, loving them, and try to be in the moment with them as much as we can.

  3. Betty, I think we are all thinking about aging. It comes with passing the biblical age of three score years and ten. I’m not sure if how we age is a culture thing, or an economic thing, or a technology thing, or an education thing, or simply an individual family thing. My grandfather left the farm in the south of Ireland and moved to a town in the north. My father left the north of Ireland and went to England. I left England and went to Canada. My son left Canada and went to Japan. We all had the education to be able to do that.

    Do children need grandparents? I don’t know. All four of mine were dead before I was born or soon thereafter.

    Who is going to look after us when we get sick and are no longer capable? I also don’t know the answer to that, but I guess we’ll find out in due course.

    We are all going to grow even older, and there’s no way to avoid that. It’s worth thinking about, but I now have to go. A good friend and neighbour is in Sunnybrook after suffering another stroke. I have to go and cheer him up.

    Take care, eh!


  4. Betty it is interesting to see your wrestling’s with this timeless subject. You are lucky in that your talents will allow you to continue to contribute to society. In the current generation when so many are choosing to not have families and have chosen a more self-centered path aging may strike with a vengeance. Our generation will have much to answer to, as climate change sets in and we
    continue to look the other way. I think that our priorities must be seriously examined.

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