Much is made, and rightly so, of the special circumstances in which elders experience a great forgetting. We commonly refer to this as “living with dementia.” Less attention is paid, however, to how and why elders remember. Elders’ recollections are different from ordinary forms of memory…
“Gotta pay the bills! Gotta get milk when I am at the store!”
The distinctive elder memories I am talking about are actually exceptionally valuable. They connect all of us to our past and the our future. Elders have a unique capacity to shape and reshape the future (much of which they will not live to see) through the sharing of memory with younger people.
Too often this capacity is caricatured as mere reminiscence…
“Why, back when I was a boy we walked 10 miles to school uphill, both ways!”
The good stuff is authentic, it goes deep, it plucks the past’s mystic chords.
We must always have old memories and young hopes.
– Arsene Houssaye
My French is not very good but, as near as I can tell, Houssaye was speaking of the memories and hopes of individuals. I think his words have more depth and meaning when they are expanded to refer to cultural values.
This brings me too Sally Hitchcock Pullman. As a young woman she served as a WWII Army nurse stationed in the South Pacific. You can find an excerpt from her memoir HERE
I encourage you to click that link and spend a few minutes reading her fascinating story.
When you are done remember this…
You are, on this very day, living the life you will remember as an elder.
You are the living breathing human being upon which your elder self will base all of his or her most important and valuable stories.
You are, literally, an elder in the making.