The Way I See it: Elders deserve dignity and respect

Michele Blais is inspired by The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as she looks at ways in which we can value seniors

A home for the Elderly and the Beautiful. I love that line and it comes from one of my new favourite movies, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The hotel in India was target marketed to have seniors from other countries come live there on a permanent basis. I believe the young man said, “from countries where they do not value their seniors.”

A home for the elderly and the beautiful, I like that. I like the image it creates as we think of aging and beauty together.

The other movie that I loved is Quartet, where the elderly and the beautiful live in Beecham  House, a home for retired musicians. This movie made me appreciate how our talents can be great company for us as we age. Their beautiful music fills their days, whether playing alone in their room or the garden, or accompanying their friends at the piano. It is a wonderful movie. So what talents do I have that will keep me company as I age? The gift of gab?

In our house we are discussing our own retirement a great deal. The list of what my darling will do in retirement is lengthy. I am not there yet but I do fantasize about leisurely and busy fun days ahead. The people I know who have retired in their 50s and 60s describe a busy life of skiing, snowshoeing, paddle boarding, sailing, hiking, canoe trips, kayaking, travel, gardening, writing, painting, great times with friends and family.

Sounds similar to the activities in which I had the lads participate in their youth. So now perhaps I can imagine recapturing some of my youth as I age. My knees are not great, and the extra poundage doesn’t help, of course I could get rid of that extra-large sack of flour I pack around. You just participate in a different way, and participation and trying are key.

I have a romantic idea of this time ahead, and that’s what I want, as we all do. Not plagued by illness, or loneliness or financial stress. But many of our elderly and beautiful do experience these.  As a society how we value our elderly says a great deal about us. The appreciation of the wisdom and life experience earned, of sacrifices made when we were young, the caring and nurturing we received, and the knowledge and talents that lie behind the wrinkles is what built this great country.

My mom would get frustrated with people treating her as “old” which to her meant unimportant and helpless, when inside a body that was failing her for many years was a sharp wit and a heart of gold. Up until her 80s she complained, and we now see 80 as the new 60.

We can be a country and culture that treats our elders with dignity and respect, and it starts with each of as individuals, families, communities, governments. Let us not forget we are all going to be the elderly and beautiful one day.

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star and a Realtor in Vernon, B.C.; her column appears every other Sunday.