Old lives matter Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel

Do we cherrish old people enough?

Needless to say that the numbers of old people are rising around the world. What does that mean to us, to me personally? I am convinced that the way, a society thinks about their old ones says more about their status of development than gross income.

Do we – on a daily basis – realize the great importance of old people for our societies? Are we thankful for their lives? Do we treat them with the respect they deserve? Or do we think about the costs that old people mean for the health system? Do we look down on them because the are no more productive, got slow and fragile?

Did we forget?

Countless things and amenities that we enjoy every day are the result of the ideas and achievements of people who are old and very old today. People whose former energy and creative power we can often only guess at.

People who can no longer make active contributions to the lives of others and yet still give us gifts every day: with the courage to face life, with an undaunted good mood, with a grateful smile, with a hug, with life wisdom, with their serenity and contentment.

Again: How a society looks at and treats its old people certainly says more about this society than the number of cars, economic performance or fast trains and similar signs of a modern industrial society.

The taxi driver from Pakistan

Are we doing enough for our old people? I asked myself this question when I recently spoke to a taxi driver who came to Germany from Pakistan twenty years ago. I met him on a cold misty morning when he drove me to my office at the university.

He asked me for my profession, and I told him that I am doing research about aging and old people. He took it for a keyword and responded that he drives a lot of old people in the mornings: to the doctor, to shopping, to the bank.

He added: „Many of these old people are sad because they are lonely. Although they have children, who could care for them, but don’t.

By this information I got keen and asked him:

“And what about your parents since you went to Germany?” – “They are well looked after in Pakistan by two sisters and a brother’s family.

I insisted: And how do you care for your old parents? –

„I send every month from the money I earn driving a taxi.”

I was impressed, but he had not finished yet. He added:

“And I myself call mum every day. – Three or four times. She always has lots to tell.”

… and me?

I have also called my mother regularly in the last 20 years of her life: but only once a week, on Sunday. And now I’ve found out from a Pakistani taxi driver how pathetic that actually was …

My helpless spontaneous reaction was a pointlessly large tip. But my mother does not get any more of that …