Call to Life

Swami Kriyamurti Saraswati

Old age is a fallacy. There are children of fifteen who are old and aged, and there are people of eighty who are fresh and lively. We have to eradicate the accepted image of the old person and install a new idea.

The recipe is simple : continued work and responsibility. We read in the 'Ishavasya Upanishad' that one should desire to live for 100 years performing one's duties. Therefore, if we undertake to really 'care' for our old people, we must bring them back to active life and treat them as equals. No more rest and retirement homes where all they do is look at and talk to one another. Put them in a stimulating environment where they can mix creatively with people of all age groups. Give them work, a job to suit their temperament, experience and capabilities. Let them fulfil their traditional role as counsellor, advisor and guide. Return their self-confidence and self-respect by allowing them to continue as useful and necessary cogs in the human wheel of life.

When this has been done you will find that they won't age; they won't be able to! They will play their part in society as well as the next man. It is a challenge! The weak may fail and they will be looked after accordingly, but we can no longer maintain a society which treats human beings like battery hens. 'Caring' does not mean pampering and coddling people until they lose their brains and become soft in the head. Caring means giving respect as a human being despite small shortcomings due to an ageing body. One lady of eighty may be weak in body and need the care of an old folks home. But the next will be full of energy and in complete command of all her mental faculties, and she will be more at home striding through the jungle on a biological expedition. Old age is only lonely for those whose life was empty. We must open our eyes to our old people and discover their past secrets, and care for their future happiness. Let us fill up their lives, not with compassionate security benefits, but by giving them our trust and our work, and by calling them back to the world in which we live.