Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Are we all facing the same old story?

Joe Barry

Joe Barry

"Youth is a disease from which we all recover." This is just one of the many wonderful quotes from famous people that I have been reading of late.

They aptly describe the opportunities that ageing presents. I especially liked another: "Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many."

But perhaps best of all came from Henry David Thoreau, who said: "None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm."

It is also interesting and sometimes even alarming to note the manner in which some societies treat their elders. When people grow old in traditional villages in Fiji, family and friends care for them at home until their dying days.

Yet, in America, senior citizens are more typically banished to nursing homes.

In all East Asian cultures with a Confucian tradition, it is considered utterly despicable not to take care of your parents. In contrast, some African nomadic tribes abandon the aged once they can no longer travel or else sacrifice them in times of famine.

It is still generally accepted, however, that if you want advice on some complicated problem, you should ask a person who is 70, rather than one who is 25.

A few years ago, there was considerable criticism in the media regarding the penal system in use in the Arab world where a thief can be punished by cutting off their hand.

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This does seem a bit extreme for robbing someone's wallet or handbag.

But an Arab spokesperson, when interviewed regarding what Europeans called 'this barbaric practice', replied that perhaps three people had suffered this penalty in the previous year, but, as a consequence, there was no need to be concerned about having your house or car broken into as theft was virtually unknown.


He then asked the interviewer how it was that in Western societies, we lock up our parents and other older relations in nursing homes and institutions instead of honouring them and caring for them ourselves.

He added that for Arabs, and indeed for many other societies and cultures worldwide, caring for an elderly relative was viewed as a privilege which allowed the younger members of the family to benefit from the older person's accumulated knowledge and wisdom.

The Arab certainly had a point and I cannot think of a worse end than lingering away in some institution, surrounded by strangers and bored senseless, with the only diversion being the occasional dutiful visit from relatives.

It is difficult to understand why we cannot provide better home care and allow greater numbers of the elderly to remain in their own house and live out their remaining days with dignity and in familiar surroundings.

It is proven to be cheaper to provide such care than to banish older people to premises where their only company is others in the same age bracket, some who may be suffering from dementia.

I think I would rather wade out of my depth while fishing than face such an end.

Many nursing homes do indeed provide first-class care in pleasant surroundings, but some unfortunately do not and there have been some alarming and well-publicised cases where the elderly have been subjected to appalling treatment.

Dealing with growing older can be a real challenge and it all depends on the individual.

I know many people in their 80s and even older still who are busy and active and doing their bit for their families and society in general. They are a wonderful inspiration and I guess the reason for their energy and drive is that they enjoy life to the full and cannot see why they should take things easier just because of a date on the calendar.


The late Ambrose Congreve, who left his magnificent estate in Co Waterford to the nation, was a dedicated gardener and died at the age of 104 while on his way to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Farmers, of course, tend never to quit, but when we do reach the point of retiring from active involvement in our business, we must not then sit back and leave it to others to make our personal decisions for us.

In 44 BC, Cicero wrote: "Old age will only be respected if it fights for itself, maintains its rights, avoids dependence on anyone and asserts control over its own to the last breath."

Sound advice and as valid today as it was more than 2,000 years ago.

Indo Farming