I was visiting my elderly neighbour the other day and she showed me some photographs of her younger days. In some photos she appeared carefree and full of youthful dreams and other photos showed her happy with her growing family. They must have been fond memories. But I looked at her now, all lined and wrinkled with sadness in her eyes. Even though she lives in a granny flat at the back of one of her son’s house she is still very lonely. She says they hardly have time for her.
It makes me sad to think about her and what most other elderly people go through at the end of their lives. What about our parents (and parents-in-law) who have reached old age? Have we forgotten them already? Do we spend time visiting and keeping them company?
It makes me so sad for my future if I live to be old. Is this is how it’s going to be where everyone is busy with their own lives with not even a few minutes to spare for us oldies? Even our own children whom we have raised and love, putting us on the shelf and forgetting about us. Will we be alone with only our memories for company?
This is not how it should be!
What we can do:
1. Treat our elderly parents with the love that they have given us when we were little. Now that they are older, we must return that love and not mistreat or forget about them. Just think of how we have held our own babies and loved them. So too did our parents used to hold us and loved us. So return that love when they need it most.
And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower onto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy and say, “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy for they did bring me up when I was young.” (Qur'an, Al-Isra 17: 23-24)
2. If we know of any elderly people, just visit them. They will be happy for the company even if only for a little while. Try to make it a regular visit. It will be something they will look forward to.
With your own parents or grandparents, try to make at least a longer weekly visit with the whole family and shorter visits during the week by yourself. In effect have a large family gathering on the weekend and spend some ‘quality’ time during the week. This can be shorter to check up regularly on them. They will value every moment you can spare.
3. Teach our children to respect the elderly. Teach them to have patience and care for the elderly, be it their own grandparents or others.
I remember when I was a teenager I did not have time for my grandparents. May Allah forgive me but when we’re young we don’t seem to have time for any one else. It makes me regret the times when I was impatient. I hope to teach my children to be better.
My children are at the age where they’re still losing their baby teeth. One day my son’s tooth fell out and he asked what happened if his new tooth fell out as well. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to teach about caring for the elderly. I told him that once he loses his adult teeth, he won’t have any more because no more will grow to replace them. That is how Allah made us. That is why his grandparents don’t have many teeth. I referred to the Qur'anic ayahs where old people are like babies again. I told him when he was a baby he couldn’t do anything. He didn’t have teeth to chew so he had to drink milk then when he was a little older I had to mash food for him. So too, when I’m older, I will begin to lose my teeth then I won’t be able to chew anymore so it will be his turn to take care of me and cut up my food and feed me. I will lose my hair like a baby with no hair. I will become weaker and won’t be able to do anything by myself. I will need him to do everything for me just like I used to do everything for him when he was a baby – even holding him when he needed me to just hold him. I referred to the Quranic ayahs about this:
Allah is He Who created you in (a state of) weakness, then gave you strength after weakness, then after strength gave (you) weakness and grey hair. He creates what He wills. And it is He Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful (i.e. Able to do all things). (Qur'an, Rum 30:54)
And Allah has created you and then He will cause you to die; and of you there are some who are sent back to senility, so that they know nothing after having known (much). Truly! Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. (Qur'an, Nahl 16:70)
And he whom We grant long life - We reverse him in creation (weakness after strength). Will they not then understand? (Qur'an, YaSin 36:68)
Insha Allah, I have planted the seed and with constant reminding and nurturing he would grow to take care of us in our old age.
4. Don’t take our spouse for granted. One day, one of you will return to Allah before the other. If it is your spouse and you live to an old age then it will be very lonely because your lifetime companion is gone. My elderly neighbour lost her spouse. This is one factor of her loneliness. I recently lost my father and my mother is lonely without him. When she turns to tell him something, he is no longer there. We don’t realised we miss something until it is gone so don’t ever take your spouse for granted.
May Allah make it easy on us if we live to old age. Ameen.