The topic for last week's Time for Reflection was the Elderly and in her presentation my friend mentioned a small charity that both of us are involved with - Faith in Older People. It's focus is to support and encourage a recognition of the spiritual needs of older people and to make care homes, faith communities and others aware of the need to cater for and deepen people's spirituality as they journey towards the end of life. On the whole faith communities have a great respect for old age but present day society seems to look upon the elderly as a problem and many try to run away from the reality of growing old by face lifts, botox etc. I liked what my friend said and thought I would like to share it on this blog. So with her permission she becomes my first guest blogger!
Time for Reflection, March 1st
Thank you Presiding Officer for the opportunity to take part in Time for Reflection. The last time I addressed this parliament was in 2003 when I was an active retired woman in my mid-60s. Now I am an active older woman in my late 70s. So when do I become elderly? Will I be invited back when I am 90?
As a trustee of Faith in Older People for the last few years I have been able to reflect on the needs of older people beyond the physical dimension. The spiritual aspect of their lives becomes more compelling as they come face to face with their impending mortality.
In the Jewish Scriptures there is a commandment to honour the elderly no matter their contribution to society. High profile elderly people command much respect – Her Majesty the Queen is approaching her 90th birthday. We remember Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and many others. But what about ordinary people whose achievements are unknown and unrecognised except by their families and their communities? They often become just a name above a hospital bed. My late mother embodied her own philosophy for life which was, ‘You have to be a good person’. Few people in Scotland will know of her good deeds, nor those of many other remarkable older people throughout our country.
In 1998 a book of photographs taken in a Marie Curie Hospice by Colin Dickson was called ‘Remaining Human’. In his preface he said that he had taken the photographs to show that faced with the prospect of death, most people remain completely human. He said, ‘Until you are dead you are still alive…their lives are still going on and they can laugh and be sad and be generous and be cruel, in other words be people just like other people.’ Those observations could apply equally to the elderly.
Through my involvement with the Scottish Jewish Archives I have had the privilege of interviewing older members of our community. I have learned of the challenges they faced growing up during the war, their service to our country both in wartime and in peace. It is so important to hear their voices and experiences and their contribution to the Scottish story.
I will finish by quoting Rabbi Berel Wein, ‘May we all be blessed to come to the fullness of our lives with all our days attached to us in serenity and achievement.’