AT WHAT age are you old? The answer seems to depend on whom you ask. Teenagers will happily banish anyone over 25 to this category. On the other hand, opera singers do not reach their prime until much later in life. And a report in Australia's newspaper The Sun-Herald claims regarding those intent on climbing the corporate ladder: “Today's truth is that if you haven't made it by 40, you never will.”
Some may assume that people who are older are accident prone and slow to learn and are rapidly declining physically. Is it fair to make such assumptions? Well, according to statistics of the World Health Organization, in the whole European region, “one in every three road traffic deaths involves people younger than 25 years of age.” Furthermore, the most rapid rate of physical decline happens between ages 30 and 40, and there is no evidence that a healthy person's intellectual ability decreases with age.
What about the assumption that older people are necessarily sick? A common myth is that ageing and disease are synonymous, says one Medical Journal. The fact is, many older ones are enjoying a reasonable measure of health and don't consider themselves old. Some feel as did the American statesman Bernard Baruch, who said: “To me old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”
Why, then, do older people often suffer discrimination and, at times, even outright prejudice? The answer revolves to a large extent around attitudes toward aging.
Most among developed countries are drunk on youth and have warped the media's view of the old, even one Magazine lamented that Old-timers have been virtually banished from the media business. This may help explain a modern paradox observed by The UNESCO Courier: “Never has a society done so much for its oldest members. They benefit from economic and social protection, but the image society has of them is deeply negative.”
Even the medical profession is not immune to this prejudice. According to one Medical Journal, many doctors, as well as the general community, believe that for people over 65 years of age it is too late for preventive care. The negative attitude has meant that older people have been excluded from many important studies.
This same journal asserts: A negative attitude towards older people, labeling them as 'geriatric', can be used as an excuse to provide inferior medical care. Many common, but minor, functional problems such as reduced vision and hearing are overlooked or accepted as a normal part of ageing. A change in attitude towards older people is central to an effective preventive program.
Perhaps the time has come to revise upwards the traditional definition of what constitutes old age at least in the country. Why is this important? One journal pointed out that, an altered definition might lift the gloom, doom, and dire predictions that are all too often used to bolster prejudices about 'tidal waves' of elderly people consuming 'unfair shares' of scarce health resources.
On a contrary, no matter what the case may be the aged still deserves some credit or respect in and around society. However, there is a saying that, respect is a reciprocal, which may suggest once such a character is portray to the aged, there is the needed requirement to deliver it back to its rightful deserver(the youth). But few among these aged adhere to that if at all. No wonder some young educated elite refuse to understand why 'they 'should be blamed for neglecting the aged when the aged themselves finds it difficult to accept blames, even if for once.
Already, similar cases have gone to sleep where as some others have arisen and currently at its peak in most villages, towns, and in the country as a whole. However, in the cause of fight against these poor attitudes towards the aged who are mostly found in our homes and institutions. There would be the need, if not with Biblical perceptions, create some platform by chiefs together with opinion leader, private organizations (NGO'S who ensure social justice) and if possible the government (through the local government system) to sensitize people over unfair discrimination and poor attitudes towards the AGED. Without pinpointing any specific institution, the most favourite angles of cutting down this alarming situation of over discrimination rest on our dear workers who attend to people in most of our institutions. And for that matter trained and acquired with human and interpersonal relation skills and has become professionals, to be patient and if necessary endure should incase the AGED wage war over their profession.
Our elders use to say that, a home without an elderly lacks cultured attitude (sense) and “honest criticism is hard to take particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger”─ Franklin Jones. Therefore, there is the need to pay homage to the AGED in our various homes and attend to them with much respect. As proverb 23:22 stated, “listen to your father who caused your birth, and do not despise your mother just because she has grown old”. Why don't we all join hands in curbing this poor attitude and if possible bring back the old relationship where we hanged around them for stories and histories. THINK ABOUT IT.
APPIAH KWASI ISAAC (SANTASE-KUMASI)
EMAIL: [email protected]