Personal Development: Ageing and Rebirth

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Did you know that at the end of your life most of us won’t even have the freedom to choose what to eat? Also, if we are lucky to still be able to lift the spoon to our own mouth, we will have no power over what is on our plate. There is nothing that will protect us from the lack of flavour in our dishes, nor the solitude involved in getting old.

During my years as a care worker, I met people from all walks of life in a fancy area by the seaside in the south of Sweden – just imagine what it was like in the less-favoured areas. The most striking thing all the old and disabled people all had in common was heart- breaking loneliness. It didn’t seem to matter who you had been or what kind of life you had
lived, they were all so lonely. It seemed everyone was just dropped in their apartment, filling their days with hours and hours of solitude, waiting for time to pass and life to end.

Among the people I got to know, there was a foreign correspondent who had spoken eight different languages and travelled all over the world. Sadly, there were no signs left in her appearance of her adventurous and courageous life. After several electrical shock treatments, she had been reduced to a vegetable in a wheelchair with no possibility to care for herself. Some people lost their sight and hearing, others had rheumatism or multiple sclerosis. Some people had lived through the war and hid their coffee under their bed, some fine ladies had lost their husbands – there was dementia and despair. Whether you had ten, one or no children, it didn’t seem to matter – the common denominator was solitude, and a profound loneliness.

For the more robust ones who still managed to walk on their own, the highlight of the day was to be able to go to the supermarket. A simple hello, thank you and goodbye at the cash register cheered up their day. Visits were restricted to birthdays and Christmas, as their children were busy living their own lives. It is difficult to condense in a few lines what it means to become old, but what I can say is that it involves helplessness, solitude and humiliation. If you haven’t understood compassion yet, you will do so when you are sitting there on your own in your too-big nappy and eating smelly food.

We all know that the world is facing enormous challenges at the moment and that we need to rethink how we care for ourselves, others, and the planet. To become conscious that one day it will be you and I sitting there alone in our wheelchairs could speed up the development of a more compassionate world. No matter what you believe, no matter your values, we are all equal in the face of ageing. If I had a magic wand, I would like to give us all a glimpse of our aged self so that a light of compassion and gratitude for the small things in life could grow in all of our hearts.

Let us understand that nothing we own will save us from the reality of ageing, and what is the point being the richest in the graveyard?

With this in mind, let us start making real changes in this world now.

Not in a hundred years…