Frailty, in its physical form, seems to sneek up on us. Even now, my mind says I’m 18 but my body strongly disagrees. Yet I am not frail. The frail among us move in ways that can seem excruciatingly slow. They are focused on being deliberate and cautious. Sometimes they wobble in surprise as a child zooms past often bumping their cane or walker. They stop abruptly to re-evaluate the situation, ensuring they are again in control of their movements and safe before continuing.
Our fast paced lives devalue slow and meaningful movement and speach.
Have you ever been behind someone frail in the grocery store check out line? No one wants to get in line behind them because they know it will be slow going. I’ve stood there. It seems to take forever for them to pay their bill. They don’t get out their pocket book or wallet until the cashier announces the amount. Their arthritic hands fumble for money as they carefully choose the correct denominations. Their struggle for the coins, wrestling each coin individually from the purse, is excruciating to watch.
The arduous process is complete.
It’s amazing to me how many people rush by without honoring these wonderful beings in our midst. Often there is foot tapping by the cashier accompanied by loud sighs from waiting patrons. I have watched these individuals, full of doubt and insecure in their person, glance sheepishly at those waiting fearing judgment. They mumble apologies. Ironically they attempt quickness but this backfires. Their agitation becomes more visible and pronounced causing them to take even more time.
Often I have wanted to help search the coin purse for the right coins. I feel helpless as they shake, fumble, and struggle to grasp a single coin with work worn fingers that don’t cooperate. I have had to hold my hands, clenched in front of me, to stop myself from snatching their coin purse. Whenever possible, I try catching the glance of my elder, making eye contact and smiling. Others have frowned at me, seemingly wanting me to join the anti-elder club or something.
I watch as those I love become frail. Apearing as a mantle that settles quickly or slowly on the shoulders. Frailty somehow causes people to shrink or maybe its more like becoming a shadow of their former selves. I think this is a result of society discounting and marginalizing elders. It seems like when one gets older, just because walking, talking, thinking, eating, and dressing take longer–somehow these elders have less to offer. The wisdom of their years is ignored and even deemed not irrelevant.
How can we reconcile discarding those in our society having wisdom and knowledge well beyond our years simply because they take extra time at the grocery store? How can we allow our youth to disrespect the older population? I see this happen in churches, children rush to the front of the line at the potluck for the choice foods while the elders wait until the frenzy is over. The way those kids squeeze in front of one another, I would wait too for fear of getting knocked down!
What happened to respect for elders? How about gallantry? What happened to taking time to go to grandma’s house looking forward to listening to all of the stories she has to tell? Why do we not seek the wisdom of our elders but instead turn to one another who have little to offer. We have yet to live!
Someday we will be the frail one, marginalized, ignored, irrelevant.
Yes, frailty is scary. Shaky hands and unstable steps reveal our mortality. Someday there will no longer be the opportunity to get advice from that elder in your family. Someday the neighborhood lady who always bakes cookies for the kids won’t be around for you to talk to over coffee about the troubles you are having with your kids. Someday the older man will be gone and you won’t know how he bravely served our country.
Please, take the time to connect with someone older. If you don’t have anyone in your own family, find someone in your neighborhood. If you can’t find someone in your neighborhood, start visiting an assisted living home. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn!
Hit me up and let me know how it goes!