I have always had a special bond with people much older than me. I like to listen to their stories, watch them do their daily tasks, go for walks, ride bikes, play cards and boardgames… I always had such respect for them and they always inspired me with their incredible wisdom and truth. Regardless of whether I was a relative or not. I was always welcome, always so well cared for and always fed. I was lucky enough to grow up in a community where spending time with elderly people was what we did. My first memory is from when I was 5 years old. I used to cut out paper dolls and paper clothes with the old lady who lived across the street from me. When I look back at my life, it seems I have always loved to be around older people and they me. I had and still have, the greatest grandparents in the world. Last year I met an elderly man who’s brothers grandchildren were my kids age. He was English and travelling the world alone. He asked for my address and a few months later I got a handwritten letter from him with photos! Telling me about his travels and how much he enjoyed watching the kids play. In western societies we have forgotten the importance of child-elder interaction, we have lost the respect for those who has lived longer. We believe the world is a hostile place. That the world belongs to the youth, the ones who knows and can do everything. I feel sad when I think about all the lost wisdom and all the unappreciated people. Look at us… here we are trying to “fix the world” with our small minds without even considering asking the people who has lived through two world wars, who watched the first car hit the market, the moon landing on TV, the rise of the industrial revolution and the big digital take over and information overload! If you go out to any restaurant tonight you will notice that people have lost their ability to connect eye to eye without taking a selfie first. Don’t get me wrong, I think we are moving in the right direction, BUT I think this transition phase could have gone a lot smoother if we listened to and respected those who came before us.
Speaking of listening to wisdom, this lady you are about to meet holds a very special place in my heart. My neighbour from home and best friends’ grandmother. She asked me last summer if I could take some photos for her. She wasn’t sure how much longer she would live for (as none of us do) and wanted to frame some photos of herself for family and friends as christmas presents. I called her one morning when the summer rain had stopped for a moment (there is a word for that in Swedish; uppehåll, a temporary rain paus). I said; roll up your hair and find something nice to wear for this afternoon. “Ok” she said, “I’m onto it”. Did I mention she is completely blind and lives on her own in a two storey villa with an underground laundry? Yes, AND she cleans and cooks for herself everyday, even elderberry lemonade! Back to the story… When the photos were taken and our little chat was coming to an end, I said to her that I thought it would be a much better idea to do a little book with photos and stories. Stories people may have forgotten or never heard off, so that was what we did. She is nothing but absolutely remarkable this woman and I love and respect her like she’s my own grandmother.
Here is what an afternoon could look like for somebody who has lived for almost 100 year. The words in the book are for her nearest and dearest so I won’t share that, but her message to the world goes something like this. “Life is up and down, one moment intensely busy and the next very lonely, it will happen to all of us, so appreciate all the moments. One must remember while young, that we are all just one visit or phone call away from making someone’s day, there is truly nothing better than some great company and a good laugh! Books keeps us young, no matter how old our bodies may feel, in our minds we can be anyone we want. Don’t go for what’s easy, that will leave you powerless eventually. Independence comes from hard work and a will of steel. You don’t need to ask for help all the time, use your problems solving skills! If you are blind like me, and somebody has misplaced the remote control, then that is a whole different story. Other than that, you should be able to do most things if you are determined enough. It helps to stay close to the people who live close, they will many times be your lifeline. Losing my vision made my memory very sharp, I remember everything and I know when something is not where it is supposed to be. I know when my taxi driver is lost, I can usually guide him in back to my house in my head. Even if I can’t see I still want to receive photographs of my grandchildren and great grandchildren, I want a nice garden and I want to look nice! It’s important not to loose interest in such things. It’s always about the feeling! One more thing.. old age doesn’t automatically mean poor hearing. Like many others, I hear fine, you can speak normally to me. If I or anyone else ever need you to speak up or slow down, we’ll make sure to tell you. Now…. go out there and do the best you can with what you have. Do what makes you happy, laughter will keep your mind healthy for a hundred years so don’t sweat the small stuff.