need to make time for relatives, friends and colleagues
One of the saddest things that occurs when individuals grow old is the loneliness that engulfs them much of the time. This loneliness can be attributed, in part, to some or all of their children and grandchildren living overseas or in other cities far from home.
There is an 82-year-old widow living all alone in Petaling Jaya and her three adult children have chosen to live in the United Kingdom. She struggles with the chores and issues of daily living. For instance, she has to drive to the nearby market which is fairly congested on most days, twice a week, go up the steep ramp to park her car in a parking bay, and then walk down the steps to the wet market.
Challenge of Living Alone for Senior Individuals
What makes it all the more difficult for her is that once the marketing is over, she finds it difficult to get help to carry the goods up two flights of steps. At one time, she was able to get a foreign worker ( a stall assistant ) to assist her. This is not always possible these days.
Are the adult children of this widow unaware of her predicament? This is not likely the case. They have grown up to be selfish and indifferent. Filial piety has been unceremoniously jettisoned.
Another cause of such loneliness is that relatives, former colleagues and friends do not seem to have time for these senior citizens. They are far too busy leading hectic lives and are often saddled with multiple responsibilities that drain their energy and focus.
Loneliness for Senior Citizens is a Huge Problem
One senior citizen, George now in his 87th year, confided to me recently that most of his good friends and former colleagues have passed on. He feels their absence profoundly. He is in relatively good health although he has some breathing difficulties from time to time because he used to be a heavy smoker for years.
He is also careful with his food intake because he suffers from some recurring problems with his digestive system. He was, however, pleased to inform me that he has enjoyed getting his regular pension payments for more years than he had actually served the government. Well, that is thanks in part to advances in modern medicine.
Financially Secure but Loneliness still Sucks
There are also some senior citizens who are deeply regretting the choices they made whilst they were young, healthy and in an exciting career pathway or business situation. They chose to focus far too much on their jobs or businesses to the extent that they had literally no time for the family. They were enjoying their career progression, their business successes and their golf outings far too much to bother about their family.
And as a result, the family grew apart from that individual. To his credit, James did support the family financially. He gave his wife, a golf widow, a generous monthly allowance and he paid for his children’s education up to university level. He also provided them with many creature comforts and holidays.
But he did not bother or care to cultivate their love and affection. The wife who was ignored and forgotten then developed her own circle of friends and took to gambling in a serious way.
Now the Family Have No Time for Him
Now in his mid-seventies, with few sincere friends and not in the best of health, he has tried belatedly to get close to his wife but has met with little success. He has also tried to reach out to his children, all grown up and successful. They have remained courteous and respectful but distant in terms of any emotional bonding.
In a not so strange twist of fate, they now do not seem to have time for him.
He has sadly confessed to some close friends how he wished he could turn the clock back and make amends.
Cultivating Friendships is a Two-Way Process
Some individuals who pretend to be friends with you easily forget that cultivating friendship is a two-way process. Both parties must want that friendship and both parties must be prepared to invest in that relationship for it to grow, prosper and bloom.
If only one party is making all the effort and the other is only reaping the benefits of that friendship, then that so called friendship will not last long.
I know of one so-called friend who consistently invites me to visit him at his home but never makes the effort to reciprocate. He always trots out the same, silly excuse for not visiting me………….he has no car!
This person is financially well off, assets and cash wise, and can easily afford a car but chooses to sponge on others for lifts and transport all the time. He pretends to be a pauper because he does not want to spend money on a bus, LRT or taxi. He is, however, prepared to burden someone else with the chore of providing him with a lift.
He only telephones me when he needs something done or to give me some news. I certainly do not consider him a friend but a mere acquaintance.
La Sallians Show the Way
Old boys of La Salle schools throughout Malaysia show the way in this regard. These venerable institutions like St Xavier’s in Penang, St Francis in Malacca, St Michael’s in Ipoh, St George’s in Taiping, St John’s in KL and St Paul’s in Seremban have very active old boys’ associations. Even smaller La Salle schools like La Salle Brickfields Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, are no laggards in this matter.
Increasingly, these old boys make strenuous and regular efforts to stay in touch with their classmates and schoolmates. What is even more remarkable is that often they invite their former teachers to join in the dinner meetings and gatherings.
These old boys, now in their sixties and La Sallians to the core, cherish their carefree, school going days and the camaraderie that they used to enjoy in that halcyon period. What is the secret to this phenomenon?
It must surely be the unique ethos, traditions and culture of these La Sallian institutions. Many have ‘ graduated ‘ from being mere classmates and schoolmates to being firm friends by choice. These old boys meet at least three or four times each year to renew, sustain and nourish their friendship. That alone speaks volumes about what it means to be a true friend. Staying in regular touch is one sure way to show that you care.
A Rose to the Living is Better than……
I would like to share with you a nugget of distilled wisdom from Nixon Waterman. A senior citizen I know very well used to often mention this meaningful quote when she was talking about relatives and friends who have forgotten about visiting her.
She used to lament: What is the point of coming for my funeral or sending a beautiful wreath when I am gone?
Don’t they know that:
‘A Rose to the Living is more
than sumptuous wreaths to the dead
A Rose to the Living is more
if graciously given before
the hungry spirit is fled’
That brief quote says it all and that too quite poignantly.
Let us all, collectively and with determination, make an effort to invest in relationships, visit friends especially senior citizens and others living alone. Let us strive to bring comfort, joy and solace to these individuals who are going through a difficult journey.