Saturday, 30 April 2016
Letters to Nonagenarians
Hello, can you hear me?
It looks bad, but in fairness, so would you if you had been
inexplicably planted in some god-forsaken forest.
Communicating with the elderly isn't always easy: emails can be less a means of connection than a point of struggle, and hearing aids can fail in times of need. Indeed, some days communication can seem about as difficult as deciding whether or not the above subtitle now infringes on Adele's copyright.
Yet in the end, making the effort to connect with the elderly can really be worth it. You could find that you and your grandmother really do have more in common than you thought; or, conversely, you might find that you truly are generations apart - and thus have plenty to learn from one another. Go in with an open mind, and there's little to lose (dentures don't bite), and much to gain.
I recently had an essay published by Writers' Square as part of a contest based around the theme of 'time'. The question to which one had to respond was "What was the best experience of your life so far and why?" Not wishing to wring out my memory in search of a single stand-out, stand-alone event, I argued that best experiences can't exist without something leading up to them, and subsequently found a way of writing about my friendship with my great-uncle. It was a friendship I valued a great deal; we wrote letters to one another for quite a few years, right up until his death.
If you are interested in reading the full essay, it is available via my Publications page (see "Hearing His Stories").
And as for nonagenarians in general? The wonderful thing about chatting with people older than you is that they've already experienced much of what you have, and more. In what concerns nonagenarians in particular, listen to them; if they've manage to stay alive for this long, then they definitely know something. There are thoughts to be prompted, and tales to be told.
Besides, in many cases, nonagenarians would simply really appreciate a phone call. One isn't likely to have many friends one's own age upon passing 90, for regrettable, obvious reasons - and hearing about the experiences of someone who still has the knee cartilage to be out and about can really brighten a day. If the phone isn't convenient, write them a letter. The keyboard will still be there later, I promise.
But that nonagenarian in the background, with whom there is the potential to share a wonderful friendship?
To shamelessly swipe from The Beatles, this time: Tomorrow never knows, my friend. Don't be so sure.