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Ever since the first settlers in our country, the American ideology has been centered around pure work ethic. It is well known that Americans work harder in general than people in the majority of other countries; we go to work earlier and come home later. We take our job seriously and put it before everything else. This is because we have always believed that hard work reaps great benefits, and therefore, our society values youth and young energy more than anything else. As our elderly population grows drastically larger year by year, so does percentage of American citizens over the age of 65 who are living in poverty. Companies disregard the years of experience that older employees bring with them, and instead prefer the younger, fresh out of college job applicants. While it is true that fresh minds lead to new and valuable inventions, what happened to the value of experience and wisdom? Is it right to just throw away our hard working citizens as soon as they begin to show signs of aging?

I’m not just talking about jobs. As a community service project last year, I volunteered at a nearby elderly home. I was overwhelmingly moved by my experience there, and had a strange yet passionate desire to voice my thoughts to the world. My time there made me both sad and angry. It forced me to think about my own actions as well as the society I have grown up in and accepted throughout my life. While many of you may disregard my feelings as naive or overly emotional, I dare you to truly think this through. Imagine walking into a silent room full of people. These are people who have lived through both World Wars. They experienced the Holocaust and many immigrated to this country from the opposite ends of the planet. They witnessed fantastic world triumphs and tragic international failures, and yet, they were absolutely silent. Not brooding or murmuring quietly. Not deep in thought. They were just, there. As I stood in front of the room trying to get them involved in a simple word game, I realized that I was talking like a first grade teacher talks to her students. Why did I automatically assume that just because most of them were in wheelchairs or were hard of hearing, they weren’t as smart or capable as me? These people had gone through so much, and here I was treating them as if they were back in the elementary classroom. Of course they sat there in utter depression. Of course the only thing they ever spoke about was escaping from the home. These people had been abandoned by their careers, abandoned by their society, and abandoned by their families. When they became to much of an expense, too much of a burden, for their families to take care of, they were sent away. After years of hard work and sacrifices, they had been dismissed as burdens?! If these old people were the definition of a burden, then I say this: You are the burden. We are the burden. Dad spends years of his life holding our hands as we cross the street, and the moment he needs a walking stick, we label him weak. Mom tirelessly spends year after year helping us memorize our ABCs, and when she can no longer remember every single thing we tell her, we dismiss her as insane. We spend our childhood making our parents prepare dinner to our liking, refusing to eat our vegetables, stubbornly ordering pizza– and yet, when grandma says nuts don’t go well with her system anymore, we roll our eyes and sigh in exasperation. What kind of egotistical, selfish people are we? While many would argue that there is nothing wrong with elderly homes, they are just not home. I understand that sometimes circumstances lead families to make such a decision, but nothing can equal the value of sitting around the table with a family. When our parents watch us leave home and make our own livings, their biggest dream is seeing their daughter’s face in a brand new grandchild, or throwing a baseball with a grandson. By sending them away, we are depriving them of their last desires. After years of sacrificing everything for our sake, don’t they deserve that much? I have no idea why I have become so passionate about this topic from a simple visit to an elderly home, but I find it unbearably sad to watch the elders of our community be degraded and treated like children. They have no power over a weakening body or a dwindling memory. Isn’t that already enough for them to deal with? No, in our society we give them more. They not only lose their health, but they also lose the respect they should have earned. How do we fix this? Look at the old people in your community with different eyes. Ask them about their lives. Tell them you care. Go and give your mom a well-deserved hug. It’s a simple act but one that speaks a million words. We’ll all be in that place someday too.




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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

sjain said...
Sept. 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm:
The essay touches my heart. It is so true. How are we so callous towards aged people when we know one day we will be in the same situation? The essay is very thought provoking. This forces you to look into your inner self. Hopefully we will get a realization that we need to change ourselves. 
 
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pdhawan said...
Sept. 5, 2010 at 11:42 pm:
Very thought provoking and emotional article. It has lessons for people of all ages to learn.
 
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Rainraj said...
Sept. 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm:

Wow! I am right now in tears finishing reading your writing. How true it is that all over the world, each one of us is aware of the fast rotating cycle of life, yet how smoothly we pretend to ignore the fact that very soon we are going to be at the same place pondering on this same cycle, sitting alone. I am so proud of you to think so deeply and  putting your thoughts in such a beautiful expressive manner; Never stop writing.

 

 
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megbri said...
Sept. 5, 2010 at 10:56 am:
Author has rightly raised a fundamental problem that all socities are going to be facing in coming decades. With advances in medicine, life expectancy had improved world wide and people are living longer now. For example, in Japan life expectancy of female is 88 years and male is 85. By 2050, 25% of population in China, Japan and other major countries will be over 65 years. So logically, the question is how do we harness wisdom and energy created by our most experienced section of the society. T... (more »)
 
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mridul said...
Sept. 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm:
A must read article for all of us...throwing reality on a very harsh reality of our society.Its indeed very sad  that elderly in our society are living a life as victims as neglect. In an age when they deserve all our care,love and respect, they are left alone to take care of themselves.the silent corridors of elderly homes do make one feel the kind of lives they are living..struggling to survive everyday,suffering from pangs of loneliness...but they are not the losers, its we people.Lost i... (more »)
 
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megbrin said...
Sept. 4, 2010 at 4:47 pm:

I think your article was filled with with lots of courage and I think you are very brave for being able to say all this in public.

You are a great writer and you expressed you're feelings to the whole world. That's one big touching article!!

 
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