News & Commentary World

Be Careful How You Treat the Aged

"Many older people are put in a home too early, and not for good reason, when it would be far better for the family to look after their own aged."

I don’t care if this offends you, but I hate the preponderance of aged care homes. This does not mean that I do not understand why we have them. There are some people who get too advanced in age with terrible conditions like dementia, or some other form of senility, that becomes too hard for a husband or family to look after, or even too dangerous for the sick person themselves and who therefore need to be placed in care.

I understand this. I don’t want the people in this situation to feel any condemnation.

But overall this is not the only way aged care homes are used. Aged care homes are often places where society places the advanced in age when they don’t know how to deal with them, when instead these people should be among their family. Many older people are put in a home too early, and not for good reason, when it would be far better for the family to look after their own aged.

This powerful Grimm tale reminds us of why it is so important to have this perspective:

The Old Man and His Grandson

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at dinner he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilled the broth upon the tablecloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. “What are you doing there?” asked the father.

“I am making a little trough,” answered the child, “for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.”

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and from then on always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, Brothers Grimm, Canterbury Classics, pp282.

One day, we who are young and can fend for ourselves presently will become too old to look after ourselves. If we are blessed enough to live to an old age. We should not forget this, and we should not forget how we are commanded to provide for our fathers and mothers, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’” (Eph. 6:1-2)

I know many people in my generation who have been treated poorly by their parents. After all, we were raised by boomers. I also know how upset, and for good reason, many in our generation are with these boomer parents, and how abandoned many in our generation feel. I see it often as a pastor.

These boomer parents often replaced their wives or their husbands and their entire family. They often squander the children’s inheritance because they are taught that you never grow old at heart and should live like teenagers until you die. They are often told that they should spend their kid’s inheritance on expensive toys… have you seen how much cars from the boomers’ youth are selling now?

It is insane. They often are too quick to believe the lies of the media and to make political choices that make life harder for their kids and grandkids. All of this is valid and true and should be challenged and spoken about publicly.

But how we treat the aged should come down to a couple of things.

  1. What God asks of us, whether we like it or not. 
  2. How we want to be treated by our own children. Because, how they see us treat their grandparents will impact how they treat us.

This is just something to ponder.

I know that some older people have done things that are so evil that you cannot have them around anymore. Really bad and serious things. I am not saying stuff like this should be overlooked. But if this is not the case with your older folks, then I think these two principles should be the basis of how the aged are treated. Which, remember, we too will one day be.

The way the little boy in this story acts really hits you right in the feels. Because, as we know and say often, out of the mouth of babes often comes wisdom.