In Praise of Old Age

🛈 COVID-19 UPDATES from the ARCHDIOCESE OF TORONTO

“We continue to pray for our elderly.  Many are, at this time of crisis, suffering alone and confined in different home settings.  Their lives, their value and their importance in our lives are described in this  article from “La Presse.” We have both the original French version and an English translation.  You will find it heart-warming.  Let us continue to take care of one another and pray for one another, especially our seniors.” 

LA PRESSE. (French Version)

In Praise of Old Age

STÉPHANE LAPORTE

SPECIAL COLLABORATION

La Presse Plus, SATURDAY APRIL 18TH

TRANSLATED BY: Cathie Furfaro

 

We’ve got it all wrong. Our seniors are not behind us. They are ahead of us. Seniors are not our past. They are our future. They have already arrived to where we are trying to go. They are ahead of us. They have walked ahead of us. Spoken before us. Danced, sung, loved, soared, won, before us. Betrayed, fallen, lost before us, too.

They are not the last. They are the first. They are our Neil Armstrongs. Our explorers. Our pioneers.  All that we know, they have taught us. To read, count, care, give, ignore, hurt and take, too. Depending on who they were for us on our way, we can either credit them for everything or blame them for everything. They are good or stupid, like us. Or, rather, we are stupid or good, like them.

What they are today is what we will be tomorrow. Creams, cosmetic surgery and Instagram filters won’t change that. We don’t get younger. None of us are getting younger; we are all getting older. Young people too. In the blink of an eye, they are already less young. Each one of is always aging. Every second of our life. Because getting older is living. And not getting older is dying.

So please tell me why we, who are always so concerned with the future, are not concerned about the future of our seniors? What we do to them is what will be done to us. What we don’t do to them is what will not be done to us. If we do not act towards them out of altruism, at least let us act towards them out of selfishness.

Or, you can even do it for your children!  Because, God willing, your children will also one day make it to old age. Why would you make so many sacrifices in order for them to have a good life, if only to have them end up sad and lonely? Every old person is someone’s child.

Society has abandoned the elderly. Not just during this pandemic. It has been happening for ages. Why?  Because we don’t want to see ourselves in them. Society is happier when it’s in denial. Society wants to believe it is 18 years old and always having fun.

The most disturbing part of this story is that when we read news about the pandemic and we see the death toll, it reassures us to see that the victims are mainly people aged 70 and over. As if it was less serious. Shame on us. A life is a life. A human being is not a car. Its value does not depreciate over time.

I know that the death of a child breaks our hearts. The death of an old child should break our hearts too. We will count the number of pieces after. We always leave too soon when we could have stayed a bit longer.

We take comfort too quickly when an older person dies, proving that their existence is not our priority and proving that their fate lies in abandonment and neglect.

Just by saying “it’s going to be alright” doesn’t mean that it will be alright. We actually have to “go there” where we can be okay with aging.   We have to change our relationship with old age. We need to allow one another to age with dignity. Stop dismissing older people.  We’re all part of the gang. From 0 to 200 years old.

Age is not a defeat. Age is a feat. It’s something to be proud of!  I’m 40 years old, I’ve been here for 40 years! I am 50 years old, I have been resilient for 50 years! I’m 60 years old, I’ve made it through these 60 years. I am 70 years old, I have loved this world for 70 years!

It all passes so quickly…just like that. 

Yesterday, you watched Pierre Elliott Trudeau say “no more madness” in your town. A snap of your fingers and you watch his son tell you to stay home and stay safe.

Life is too short. Every second counts. Every second counts from the beginning to the end of your story. Some beginnings are interrupted and some endings seem to go on forever; no matter where you are in your story, it is the page you are on now, the present, that matters most. And the present belongs to the living. To all the living. From all origins, all genders and all ages.

It has taken too many horrors to awaken our consciences to racism, let us hope that today’s horror will awaken our consciences once again.  Ageism is wrong.

It is always wrong to categorize people. Were we not all born in the same place, on earth?  And we are not all from the same era? All contemporaries? The rest is insignificant…differences that don’t matter at all, really.   Seniors are not all the same. No more than young people are all the same. That is why we cannot say “the elders are like this, the elders are like that”.

There is no such thing as a seniors’ block. What does exist is your father, your mother, your friend’s grandfather, the neighbor’s grandmother. In short, human beings.

You may wonder, then, why I entitiled this article, “In Praise of Old Age.” It is because it brings everyone together. We are all old. When I was 5, my brother was 12, and I found him so old. We are all old compared to someone, whether one day old or twelve thousand days old.

Let’s face it. Age does not measure anything. Because what identifies us is immune to age. It is not age that makes us who we are, but it is a word that resembles it and resonates with it. In the word “age”, replace the g for an m. “âme” (soul, in French). That little voice inside us. It’s what makes us laugh, cry, think and shudder. It is Invisible and omnipresent. Ageless.

This is why we are always surprised when we are entering our date of birth when filling out a form. How did I get to that age? Our soul always has the impression that it has just arrived. It remains timeless until the day it has to be returned.

If we want to keep it as long as possible, we must care about those who allowed us to have one.

So, while playing Scrabble in French, replace the v in “vieux” (old) with a d , (dieux, gods) and we won’t be far from the truth, because they are the ones who created us.