Spending Time with the Elderly

When was the last time you spent a few hours with some elderly folks whom were not related to you?

Honestly, it had been a long time for myself until this past week. We were invited to talk about our life in Malaysia with a small group of elderly at a retirement home. After the wonderful talk and interesting dialogues that we had, we were invited up to one of the couple’s apartment and then they treated us to dinner in the retirement home’s dining hall.

It was truly a wonderful afternoon. I’m sure they appreciated us coming out and talking with them, but I walked away from it appreciative for their long and dedicated lives for making the world a better place. The wife of the elderly couple is 97 years old and still as sharp as a tack. Her husband, the doctor, is her younger by a couple years or so.

I noticed a couple of things during our visit. First of all, as a writer, I studied the couple to better understand how an elderly couple walks, talks, communicates with each other, and goes about living in their tenth decade of life and seventh decade of marriage. Wow!

But please don’t think I was looking at merely specimen for study and research in order to make my writing more authentic. Not at all. I was humbled to learn of their sacrifices and their passion for serving others. I was thrilled to hear their stories – how the young doctor was studying his profession during the war years (1943) at the Cathedral of Learning in the University of Pittsburgh – how he was sent to post-war Okinawa to practice his profession – how when he returned he was introduced to a beautiful young woman at church – how he asked her to marry him but how she had to go home and pray it over before committing – and how they eventually settled into the Congo and then Cambodia and then the Congo once again, making memories, healing the sick, starting a family, and making an incredible difference around the world.

I was blessed and challenged by this amazing couple. And it got me thinking. How many other amazing elderly couples or singles are sitting right in this retirement home? How many stories have yet to be told and might be gone forever if no one ever sits down to listen? How many stories throughout the country (throughout the world) sit idle because of the busy pace of our modern lives?

We all need to make an effort to learn and listen from the generations which have gone before us. How much better would our world be if we turned off the reality TV and tuned into some real-life drama by real-life people?

This is a challenge for all of us before it is too late.

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