“You cannot discard elders like an old shoe. They still have a lot to offer, still” —Cicely Tyson on Oprah’s Masterclass
A two and a half hour drive home from visiting my Dad this weekend was heavy hearted. The first time seeing him, now in a nursing home, one that, he never thought he would be in, pleads to get out of arguing he is still self sufficient and of value — of which, I agree.
Agism, implying that over a certain age, we are viewed in decline in our effectiveness and efficiency. That our inherent worth somehow dissipates in time. Elders matter.
Aging parents, our brothers and sisters, and soon enough — each of us, having life lessons to pass on will face similar concern. For generations, our ancestors have passed the knowledge — sent us the information necessary for a sustainable future.
In my mid twenties, I worked as a homemaker for Child and Family Services Elder Care Program. The truth is, what I learned from my clients cannot be bought or taught through formal education. Everyone has a unique message in life, about life, and the gift we came here to give — doesn’t end at 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100.
Elders are invaluable. Have we have lost our understanding that behind the mask of aging lives the wisdom of ages? Have we misplaced the patience for waiting on little bits of lost memory to return heroic life journeys that wait for longing ears?
Missing in a reality TV culture is the understanding that we are all souls in human body’s sharing life experiences. How arrogant we have become to think — we are only of value during a certain age bracket.
I look up to and applaud age-irreverent artists like — legendary singer Steven Tyler, avant-garde artist and humanitarian Yoko Ono, esteemed architect, the late Philip Johnson and visionary pioneer in women’s health, Christiane Northrup — for they are breaking cultural beliefs.
Thanks to these and so many other artists, writers, and performers, we are redefining age. There is a new voice emerging that shines light on the fact that our elders have a message and it’s our charge to find out what they are here to say and carry it forward.
It is our duty to further their work. For they were scientists and doctors, writers and philanthropists, novelists and dancers, for they were poets and priests with a promise.
One of my former clients, Jeanne, inspired me to write this song in 1992. It is titled The Rose and its Thorn. The words written so long ago are echoed here today. “I promise you, I will sing for you, all the words you wish to be heard. I’ll go out in the world — and you shall be heard….”
My ending thought is simple. Just listen.
Wrapping it up succinctly is this quote from Yoko Ono’s open letter in February 2015 “Don’t Stop Me”.
“Let me be free. Let me be me! Don’t make me old, with your thinking and words about how I should be.” —Yoko Ono Lennon