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St. Louis, MO, United States
What the name sez, Christian, conservative, 2nd amendment supporter. Physician, wife, daughter and loving mother.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Young At Heart

Today my husband and I were guests at a surprise 80th birthday party for the mother of one of our closest friends. My friend and his wife had the family, of course, but they also invited several of Betty's (not her real name) childhood friends who still live in this area and have remained close over the years.

After Betty got over the fact that the party was for her and not for her granddaughter (as she was led to believe), she saw all of her childhood friends and the reunion was underway. You know how when families get together there is often a "kids table" when it comes right down to eating??? Well, in this case there was an "Octagenarians table" and then there was everyone else.

It was delightful to sit back and watch the people at that table as they laughed and joked and giggled over the meal and then the opening of the gifts and finally the birthday cake. To hear them talk so lightheartedly would belie their years and infirmities. There were canes hung over the chair backs and several of the ladies never left their seats, allowing the younger members of the family to take "orders" and serve up the cake and ice cream, but the spirited banter from that table was ageless. Jokes were followed by loud gales of laughter and wisps of conversation floated across the room. Were it not for the white heads all around the table, you would have sworn that the gaiety was from a table of much younger men and women.

We all need to witness something like this from time to time to force us to see the life and vitality in our older population. Too often I am afraid that we push the aging off to the side. We forget that just because their bodies are frail, their minds and spirits remain nimble and eager for the same fun and enjoyment of life that we all crave.

My husband and I have a New Year's eve party every year and the guest list includes my 87 year old mother, my good friends who gave the party today, Betty and her 81 year old husband, a neighbor who is a widow, another 70 year old neighbor and his wife, a 90 year old widower who lives down the road and an 86 year old couple who are Betty's brother and sister-in-law. No one lives more than 2 miles from our house and at about 12:20 AM everyone leaves in a group, but throughout the evening the conversation is spirited and sprightly, the young and the old share stories, opinions and LOTS of food. Everyone comes dressed up and brings something to share on the buffet table. We know that if it was not for our party all of these people would spend New Year's Eve at home the same way that they spend most other days.

The elderly often become depressed and bitter because they see that they are no longer included in the vital activities of society. Their agile minds are trapped in fragile bodies that require some degree of dependence on other people and they feel that they are a burden. They have so many stories to tell and experiences to share that are lost because we don't include them in our circle of friends. It isn't January 1, but this could be just the right time to re-prioritize life to include the company of the elderly. If you no longer have your own grandparents or aging relatives, you might consider adopting someone in a senior living center or nursing home and inviting them to be a part of your life. There are many elderly who live in these facilities, not because they must, but because they have no one else to turn to that would allow them to continue to live a more independent lifestyle.

What a wonderful thing you would be doing for yourself and your family to reach out and bring new life to someone who may have been thrown away by others as having become worn out and useless.

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