Mama, as the people around commonly call her is an elderly person in her mid seventies. I met her at an elderly home where she frequently visits to chat and pass time with her fellow age mates as they share memories. At the home, they also get some medical checkups and treatment and receive counseling where necessary. I was quite interested in knowing more about her and how she has managed it through the years. In my inclusive interview with mama, I sought to find out more about her youthful life and how it felt when she realized that age was giving her way. We also talked about the challenges she has encountered as an elderly person and how she overcame them, as she appeared jovial despite the wrinkles on her face. Below is what I found out:
Mama was more willing to share with me about how it felt to be old and her experiences. It was hard for her to believe that she was growing old especially when she was hitting fifty and
realized she could not do the things she used to do when she was thirty. She would at times try to defy her age and decide to run around, however this affected her negatively as she started having frequent backache. It took her quite a while to realize that it was caused by her age rather than any other abnormality (Posner, 1995). It even hit her when her grandchildren started calling her granny. Even though it is the joy of every elderly person to have grandchildren, the fact that it reminds them of their aging process can sometimes be disheartening. At times, her daughters would stop her from doing a strenuous work showing their willingness to do it simply because she was aging. This made her appear as if she is helpless and reduced her into a small child.
Aging is a psychological condition that can affect a person if they are not adequately prepared for. The fact that everybody pities you especially when the wrinkles appear it makes the person feeling horrible and stressed. Suddenly the elderly starts thinking of their youthful years and what they are able to do and now time has gone by. There is also the feeling of unfulfilled activities, which the person gets worried that they will die before they are accomplished. The though of the discomforts, stigma, diseases and even the lonely life that comes with aging can be disturbing. Unless a person is made to understand that it is normal to be old and they need to appreciate where they are, it can be very difficult for them (Posner, 1995). However, depending on the support that the elderly receives from his or her relatives, they can manage the period with less stress.
As mama explained to me, she has issues with high blood pressure, lost some of her teeth and frequent back pains. She feels that the cause of the high blood pressure is the fact that people pity her so much even when she tries to live normally. She has a supportive family that feel she is not supposed to do anything. This also makes her feel as if she is a burden to them and that she cannot do anything. She wishes she could assist where necessary but the fact that she is not allowed to makes her feel stressed. At the elderly home, she visits just to commune with the other elderly person as they share similar interests. She is also a source of encouragement to others who may have been neglected by their families. At the center, she can access medical treatment and checkups, which enhances her lifestyle. She is also advised on the appropriate food to eat as she advance in age and the activities and exercises she can do.
As I learned from mama, she had purposed when she was young that she will remain active even when she ages. This is because she wanted to remain an active member of the society and not allow people to pity her. However, when she realized that her desires were contrary to her fading strength, she became stressed. She could not run around and carry on with her household activities. It also hurt her most especially when the people she grew up with died and realized that she was all alone. The reality of old age and the loneliness that come with it was also experienced when she lost her husband whom they were enjoying good relationship. This worsened the situations in many ways; first was that she was now a widow and second people looked at her as if she was also going to die next. She in fact believed this and started living in isolation. It was in fact after the death of her husband seven years ago that she developed high blood pressure.
Aging is a dreaded period of ones life and hence need a lot of psychological help. An elderly person needs to feel that she is needed in the society at different stages of life. This does not imply that people should pity them and basically help them do everything. In as much as the elderly need some help, they should be left to do what they are capable of. When they can no longer engage in strenuous activities, the people around them who can approach them for advice and consultation should reassure their importance (Posner, 1995). This boosts their self-esteem and makes them feel that they are still needed around. Some names that may imply they are helpless and too old should be avoided as they want to feel they are strong. To boost their memory, it will be good if children are encouraged to stay around them and asked questions about their earlier years.
Mama was once a teacher and was hence close to young people. Being with the children and just guiding them through their stages gave her great delight. After her retirement she could not the opportunity to be around children who are naturally mischievous. This made her lonely and empty and desired for such an opportunity. During the holidays however, some parents could allow her former students to visit her and give her the company. This only happened for one year before she was forgotten. Since she received adequate support from her children, she kept herself busy with housework. As she got into her seventies and realized that she could no longer do much at home, she started visiting the home for the elderly for support and companion. Mama finally concludes our discussion by letting me know that she is now copping up well and assisting other elderly people to cope with her situation.
Posner, R. (1995). Aging and Old Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.