Connecting Young and Old

Ask Kytka Archives: January 14, 2003

Reaching Out: Making connections with the elderly, lonely and handicapped…

How do you incorporate elderly people into your lives/curriculum?

We have “adopted” my ex-friends parents ages 78 and 66. We visit them 2-3 times a week, they teach the children about gardening, the children rake and help in their yard. They pick oranges and just interact… I think contact with people near the threshold of death is quite important for children and that they both bring joy to the people and take away knowledge for themselves. The woman is very ill — they have watched her deteriorate, but have been there to offer hugs, a helping hand, etc. I am big on cycles of life — birth, death and I think in a tribal village this would be a very large part of a child’s community rhythm, to experience the joys and the losses.

Sadly, in this culture many of us are far removed from such experiences… Rahima is now heavily working with elderly and dying patients and the last time she was here we spent the day discussing this and I’ve always wanted the time to look deeper into Steiner’s writings on this. There is also much to be said about the spiritual rewards for working with handicapped and children who suffer with downs, and related conditions.

When I was a girl scout and went to summer camp, I always was drawn to the camp next door which was for the blind, deaf, downs, etc.. children… I think they even called it something like “handi-camp” instead of handicap — people at my own camp made fun of me that I wanted to go there — some children can be so mean… Anyhow, I was like 11, 12, 13 – it was each summer for about 3-4 years. It meant a lot to me and I still have many of my photos.

Anyhow – I think I am making a page about such experiences and would love to see some discussion and hear your stories about either — or both! ~Blessings, Kytka

Michelle Writes:

I have 5 children between the ages of 1 and 8. We are opening up a care home this fall and will be caring for a few elderly persons in our home. The kids have always been around their grandparents and great grandparents, one of which passed away a few days ago. We attended the funeral yesterday and the kids took it very well. They asked me if they could go up to the casket to view grandpa and say good bye.

At first I wasn’t sure if this would be the greatest thing but I looked into their eyes and saw no fear and thought why not!! So we went up and the kids peered in and said their good byes with smiles on their faces. We are devote Christians and so the children knew Grandpa Eddie was now with Jesus and in no more pain so I know this is why they were smiling. They knew Grandpa was o.k. and happy now.

We also have another great grandpa in a convalescent home, there for temporary therapy of whom we visited last week. The kids made cards for him to hang in his room. Grandpa’s eyes lit up when he saw them. That made them feel good. It seems to be a very natural experience for the children to see our loved ones go on to the other side, and I think it really encourages compassion and shows them how very precious each of our lives are as it doesn’t last forever. There is an end to this life for all of us and that if at all possible we should take it on ourselves to care and love for our family and friends as they need us.

Roxine Writes:

Yes, I also have always felt drawn to older people, very old people in fact have always seemed so gentle and wise. It was not until recently have I experienced how some who are not healthy can be mean or insensitive. It was just always something that I thought by the time people get old, they just get a lot more able to be gracious and accepting of their limitations. We have an elderly man who is quite an inspiration and part of our family. He still rides a bicycle and does a lot for himself. He’d rather have it that way. He repairs clocks and does jewelry making also. He has repaired some of our clocks and jewelry. We have made pickles for him for several years. We made saurkraut with him a couple years ago.

We hire him also to prune our grapes as he is a master. He has given us starts from his German grapes. This year he made his own wine. He is very keen on natural remedies and healthy diet, always inspiring in telling us what he has found lately that is good at the health food coop. Sometimes he asks for help, but not often. He needs me to give him a haircut every now and then and likes when we can sit outside to do that (not in winter of course). He adopted a little dog when the owner passed away. Many of his friends have already passed away so he sometimes calls just to talk or comes over for a visit.

Sometimes he has come to our family dinners at the Holiday time. He has made friends with friends of our family (whereas when we first met him he was very shy and withdrawn, keeping to himself) and one boy and his Mom now bake special spelt bread for him. He has certain dietary requirements that he knows help him to keep healthy and called just this morning to tell us about how if he eats at the Senior Center, it makes him get sick so he may have to take his own food there. He doesn’t enjoy going too many places, however, he has taken me (I drove) to visit some of his friends sometimes and he brought his grown son to our house to meet us also. My husband and son have built him a new front door and some grape arbors. He has had them build clock bases and boxes for his various parts he uses in his repairs. It has been a ten year relationship since we moved here and I first called just to have a clock repaired.

My younger ones just see him as an adopted Grandpa. They enjoy visiting with him on the phone when he calls too. He calls to let us know if he is not feeling well, but usually if we don’t hear from him, then we’ll give him a call. Once when we had an extra car that we weren’t using, we offered to let him borrow it and then it worked out for him to buy it from us. He had gone through hard times in his life before we met him, but he has just always been quite a wonderful example of resourcefulness and full of stories that are so good for the children to hear.

Hygeia Writes:

Aloha and welcome to wake up weekly! “I just have to tell you what an awesome mom you are and the courage to stand up and be different from this system of crap that has been handed down to us…I am trying!! This world can be sooo overwhelming!”

Welcome to America – a place that, unfortunately, is spreading family separation far and wide, beginning with the belief that women cannot be their own care-givers in pregnancy.

Three keys show us the way home…

  1. homebirth
  2. breastfeeding and family bed
  3. home education

Literate societies hire anthropologists to study non-literate societies in the hopes of learning more about being human. Yet the literate feel superior to the very role models that give them the answers to their questions. You don’t need to study anthropology to know…you need to follow your hormonal heart, and that does not require the rudiments of reading.

If you are going to research anything, re-search your heart for the primal knowledge genetically encoded into our human being. Our breasts flow with milk whether we read about it or not. Our babies come out of our bodies whether in the company of others or not. And our babies want a womb with a view upon birth whether our society agrees or not.

Ladies, birth your babies proudly, breastfeed them wholeheartedly, sleep with them like a she-bear, wear them close to your heart by day…

My brothers, listen to your women or you will be the problem she doesn’t need in her role as “everything” to her young.

Love, Hygeia

*Thank you Hygeia – for all of your inspiration!

Check out Hygeia’s book:  Primal Mothering in a Modern World

Gail Writes:

Kytka, Thank you for forwarding Hygiea’s message about about bringing the family home, for home birth, breastfeeding and family bed, and home education. It is so refreshing and comforting to find such wise counsel on this list. I wonder what you all think about adding another sacred moment to the list of rites of passage best kept at home. I had the honor of being with my father-in-law when he died at home. We were served with great respect and love by Hospice there outside Los Angeles, where he lived. To me, it felt like life became a full circle in the most blessed of ways.

Winter had come to my father-in-law’s life, through lung cancer, and being with him as he quietly and gracefully accepted new birth has become a cornerstone in my understanding of the seasons we try to live into in Waldorf homeschooling. In trying to piece this painful part of life back into our families after it has been so anti-septicized and far-removed is not easy. This is a part of real life that is not pleasant, yet it makes the circle whole. I wonder how you all feel about including this in “bringing it home”, and I especially wonder how you all feel about how we talk with our children about death. If we do bring death home, how do we deal with it with our children? How present can they be? At what age are they ready to really understand Winter?

I read somewhere how younger children should really be shielded from the darker side of Lent as we move towards Easter. I can intuitively understand that, but what about real life aspects of the pain that is symbolically addressed through Lent? I am hoping we can approach this discussion from different spiritual perspectives, as this issue is one we must all face.

Proverbs For Parenting
By Patti Chadwick

“Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don’t forget those who are suffering but imagine that you are there with them.” ~Hebrews 13:3 CEV

Life is busy.

We live in an extremely fast-paced society that constantly screams at us to hurry along to go on to the next thing that needs to be done. We don’t take a lot of time to reflect on our own lives, let alone have time to think about the situation of others.

Is living in this kind of “hecticity” good for us or does it cause us to be self-centered? Do we get so caught up living our own lives and trying to meet the needs of our own families that we don’t have the time or the energy to look outside ourselves to realize or even care about what others are going through?

There are many hurting people in the world. People who are struggling to make ends meet. Families that are falling apart. Associates who are suffering for a loved one’s mistakes. Those who are sick and/or dying. People who suffer for their faith. Have you ever seriously thought about what you and your family can do to help?

We need to teach our children to look outside of themselves, but first, we need to make sure that we are able to look past our own circumstances and determine what we can do for others. We need to learn to have a broader view of life than what is happening in our own backyard.

People need people.

God has made us that way. And there is no greater joy than the joy found in helping our fellow man. Take a look around you. Do you see anyone who needs an encouraging word? Do you see anyone who needs someone to care about the pain they are in? You won’t have to look far. Take the time today to actually SEE those around you. And then determine what you can do to help.

Thanks to all who contributed. If YOU would like to add something – please use the comment box!

Thank you!

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