In my volunteer work as the hospital chaplain I come across a lot of people who need support and prayer and a listening ear, yet the ones who I feel so sensitive toward and sympathetic to, are the older people. Especially the ones who are lonely. The ones that no longer have a spouse to support them or even a close family member or friend who cares enough to visit. It is truly heartbreaking to see them alone in the hospital room. They appear so fragile and fearful, and unfortunately, often angry. Due to their health a lot of them are also unable to return to their own home and need to find a place where they can continue to live, or more like exist, which of course they often resist out of the great fear of the unknown.
When I start talking to them they express to me that they feel as if now, that they are old, they are not needed any longer by their friends, family, or the world. They say that they feel that others look at them as useless and a burden on society.
As we continue our conversation, I realized that these “useless” people are quite amazing. They are wise, funny, fun, and academically smart. Some of them are even forgotten heroes. Some of them share with me their life experiences; the wars they fought in, the kids they raised, and the many ways in which they contributed to this world. This of course makes the way they feel so much more tragic and sad.
In order to help them I first and foremost listen attentively. Some of them like me to hold their hands and stroke their head. And all of them, always, enjoy the best medicine of all; laughter.
Value and respect the elderly, the ones that you know and more so the ones you don’t. Listen to what they have to say. We can learn a lot from their many life experiences. Besides, we will all be “the elderly” one day. And so keep in mind the universal law of “what goes around comes around”.