This is a topic that gives rise to much discussion and emotions can sometimes run high. The two sides of the spectrum are people who are either not able to or not willing to care for aged parents and those who feel strongly that it is the duty of adult children to do so.
Let’s unpack this. We need to look deeper – at life, the cycle of life and what it means. We are all here for a purpose and we fulfill this through the days of our lives, no matter what age we are. We need to understand this. It is vital to the survival of healthy families, communities and societies when we take care of everyone in it. Young parents take care of their children and undergo much hardship doing so. In the same way, children should take care of their parents when they are frail. Ancient cultures and eastern cultures have always understood this and honoured their elderly. They look up to them as dispensers of guidance and wisdom. The extended family takes care of them and they are assured of a dignified place in the system. It is sad that with Westernisation, urbanisation and the change in the structure of families and communities, the elderly have lost that place of honour that they once had. We need to bring that back.
It is important to understand that even when elderly parents become ill or lose their faculties, they need to be looked after – especially then. It is a way of giving back to them, to the system that brought you up, a way of honouring the cycle of life. When we discard our elderly or neglect or ill treat them, we take on a lot of bad energy and ill-feeling into our own lives. Also be mindful of the fact that everyone will eventually grow old and you will not want to be abandoned or neglected by your children and family. Also be aware that you are setting an example for your own children about how they should treat you one day.
Every religion teaches this. There is a well used saying in Islam: ‘Jannat (heaven) lies under the feet of the mother’. I used to wonder what this means growing up. It means ‘raise your mother up to such a high status that she is above you and you are under her feet; that will bring you to heaven’. My interpretation is that of a heaven not just in the hereafter, but in the blessings you will invite into your life by doing this. (Obviously I have made my children aware of this :))
On a personal note, my father is 89 years old. He lives with us. I have been taking care of him for many years and have taught my daughters to do the same. They love and respect their nana and will leave what they are doing to see to his needs. They do this because they understand what I have spoken about above. This is a vital lesson to teach children.
Let us embrace the cycle of life and the fact that each stage of life needs to be respected and honoured. Modern society is too enamoured of youth and its worship. But youth has to end for everyone. Instead of bemoaning this fact, let’s celebrate it and be grateful for the onset of later years, wisdom and a life well lived,secure that we have a dignified place in it, supported and cared for.