Two Sides of a Coin - Part I

Living on borrowed time without a thought for tomorrow.." John Lennon

“You know that old trees just grow stronger, and old rivers grow wilder every day.” - John Prine

Yesterday I was watching the movie, “Awakenings.” It is based on the neuroscientist, Oliver Sack’s, 1973 memoir with the same title. The film tells the story of Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a neurologist who takes a job at an institution where the “chronic” survivors of the 1917–1928  encephalitis lethargica are housed. These patients were children when they became ill. After the acute stage of the disease, they sank into catatonic states.

Thirty years later, Dr. Sayer began to figure out the cause of their condition (the depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain caused by the encephalitis) and administers L-Dopa. The results of Dr. Sayer’s treatment are astonishing. One by one these catatonic patients awaken and are shocked and sometimes horrified to realize they are no longer children.

This got me thinking. Why do we cherish newborns and young children, but warehouse the elderly when they require similar care? The elderly may need assistance, but they are also the repositories of lifetimes of information and experience. Literally.

I think you all will have thoughts to share about this, so I will wait to weigh in, but the song I’d like to share to start the discussion is John Prine’s “Hello in There.” Let’s listen.

John Prine has captured something raw and elemental in this song, so let’s talk about it.

  • Why we are so afraid of aging?

  • Why do we see wrinkles and shudder?

  • Why aren’t we interested in the stories and experiences older people have to share?

  • Can you share some of your experiences? I know that as a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up so that people would take me seriously. Then, once I was an adult, there was always another degree, license, or certification I was expected to have to be job-worthy. It’s notable that each of these credentials made someone else money, which probably had a lot to do with it. Now that I am older, my gray hair and wrinkles seem to make people hesitant to hire me.

  • Have you had any elderly people who have played a significant part in your life? If so, what did you learn from them?

And, since if there is one thing we have learned from kids it’s that we must laugh and play as well as ponder life’s mysteries, here are Mary Cook and her best friend Marina, who are favorites on Gogglebox:

And because we know laughter keeps us young:

Let the discussion begin!


Copyright 2021 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.