Dealing and communicating with the elderly

sri-sri-ravi-shankar_0Old people are not any different from children! You should treat them like kids! Like children, they’re adamant… They repeat the same things! They talk the same thing over and over again, without realizing they have already said it several times! When a pattern sets in them, you accept them as they are. They are the best practical example for you to demonstrate that you have followed the first principle of the Art of Living – ‘Accept people as they are’. They make you realize that and come into your life. So old people – you can’t change them overnight or even in a period of time. You need to accept them – that is how they are and it is all right to have their point of view. See, there is some wisdom in what they are saying. Sometimes you are unable to see wisdom in what an experienced, mature person would say because a person speaks from his or her own experience over the years. So in dealing with them, you need to know that they are experienced and that they have a different set of experiences – much different from yours. So we accept them as they are. Second, we don’t get upset because they don’t change! If you get upset, then that makes it worse! By your not accepting them, they are not going to change! So you accept them as they are because you are too small to change them… and you will find a miracle happening! The moment you accept them – give them a space of love and compassion – they slowly start changing. They do change! So you need to have a lot of patience.

You will learn patience dealing with old people and grannies, who have certain patterns! Also, don’t take their moods too seriously! Suppose they’re upset, don’t take it too seriously because if you take it too seriously, then you are not able to communicate with them. Don’t try to convince them very much! Sometimes, they just want to pour out their heart to you. If they are grumbling, they are just grumbling. They’re saying it, but they really don’t mean it! If they say, “I’m so upset” – they may say it, but they will go have their food, watch television, do all their things, but when they see you, they say, “Oh! I’m so upset! I never ate food, I didn’t do this, I didn’t do that,” and if you take all their complaints so seriously, you become miserable – life becomes miserable for you. So what should you do? When they complain to you about how bad life is, how bad people are, how worse the whole world is and how they are miserable – you should simply take it – take all those words with a little margin; know that it is just their pattern; they’re saying it – fine. It’s okay. If you don’t do this and if you take all their words too seriously, you can’t sleep! You will also lose your night’s sleep! You will get depressed as well. You won’t be able to help them. People, who are very aged or sick, they just want to communicate with you and in the process of communication, what is it that they can share with you? When people don’t have enthusiasm in them, they will only share their grievances. If they are piled up with grievances, they will only talk about this to you – That doesn’t mean that they’re so miserable. There is a corner in them that remains untouched with any amount of misery.


I tell you this is a fact. Whether it is extreme joy or happiness or terrible misery, there is a part in every human being that remains untouched by that. We need to realize that we have such a part inside us. It is the same with people who appear to be very miserable. In reality, they are not that miserable, but they talk, talk, talk, talk, talk! The same people will have a party, will laugh; but the tendency of the mind is like that – especially when you know that someone cares for you, you don’t always go to them with a smile and with joy! You go to them with all your problems and complaints! This is the normal course of things! This is what happens in the world. Isn’t that so? Suppose you are at a big party. At that party, you will go find your very close friend and complain! “The party is good, but that should have been better, but this should have been better. They should have put that thing there. This light is not good. That curtain is a little crooked and you know, there is no salt in this food; did you taste that food?” Among the twenty items, you took one item and say, “Oh! This doesn’t taste as good! Oh! That party – that was very good –where I went on the 25th of last month…” These blah, blah, blah complaints you do, only to your close friend. You will find them and then you’ll talk. You won’t talk to the host! Out of manners, you won’t go and tell someone new! The same happens with elderly people! When they find someone very close to them (their confidantes – in whom they can confide things – especially grandchildren, sons, daughters) has come home, then they will complain, about, “You know, your aunt is like that. You know, she did this way… You know, she never even sent a Christmas greeting to me. I sent her three cards and she never even replied one card…!” These are the things that go on in their minds! They’ll say all those things. I tell you, don’t imagine that they’re stuck with those things! In their mind, sometimes, these complaints don’t even come, other than when they are with you! They say all that and then they forget the whole thing! This is what happens as age advances.

There is a nice story. A man earned a lot of money and then he gave all his property to his son. When his son got everything, he built a small outhouse behind the main house for his parents and he told them, “Now you have to stay there.” So the old couple stayed there, while their son and his family started living in the big bungalow. One day, while playing, the grandchild came to his grandfather’s home, where everything was old and in a very poor, pathetic condition – old utensils, old chairs… All the unwanted goods, things that could break at any time, were kept in that house… So the grandchild came and told his grandpa, “Grandpa, be careful with your plate, your chair. Don’t break them!” He asked, “Why are you saying that?” The child said, “Because tomorrow my father needs all this!” And his father, who heard this, went into a shock – that little boy saying, “Grandpa don’t break it because tomorrow when I grow older, I’m also going to send my father here. So better save this”! One does not realize this fact – that you are also going to be old one day. You are going to be like them: “Haan? What did you say? Haan?”

You ask them, “Dad where did you keep your book?”

“Haan… What did you say? Nobody’s at the door.”

“Dad, are you coming with me?”

“What did you say? You want a cup of water? There’s plenty of it there!”

You will also get into such a state one day! They tell you what you should not be doing in your life. Tomorrow you better watch that you don’t start complaining like them… and better you start it today itself! If you find that the grannies in your home are complaining, and you don’t like it – you better don’t do it today… And if you see them – so generous, so calm, so serene, so loving, you better start being that way right now. So you can learn both ways – You can learn from elderly people, what you should be doing and what you should not be doing. And I tell you, if you’re on the path, on the knowledge, if you keep doing your meditations, your Kriya, your aging reverses! That enthusiasm to learn will exist… and your alertness, your focus, your attention – everything increases in life. You won’t become cynical and senile as you advance in age.

If you’re all the time focused on pleasure and ‘what will I get?’, ‘how do I exploit?’, ‘how can I enjoy?’, more, more, more… Then you will see, the ability to enjoy, for your senses, is limited. Your senses will get so tired and before that, they’ll make your brain tired, your mind tired and you’re in a mumbo jumbo – mess. We have to sort ourselves out of this mess. Wake up! Wake up and see ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’, ‘What is this world?’, ‘What do I want?’, ‘What can I do in this world?’, ‘What did I do this last year to the world? What can I do this year to the world?’ This zeal and enthusiasm, you have to create within yourself! Elderly people remind you – Look! You don’t become like me or you follow my footsteps. These are the two messages you get from them – either you follow my footsteps or you better don’t become like me! Mahatma Gandhi, if you see his pictures, when he was young, he looked like a ‘Most Wanted’ person – wanted dead or alive – in twenty-seven robbery cases! But as he became older, his smile became bigger because he started serving, he started meditating. His beauty increased everyday as he became older and older – because his quest for truth was so much. So that fire in us – ‘I want to know the Truth’; ‘My life is committed to Truth – knowing Truth’; ‘My life is committed to serving everybody in the world – to make a better world around me’; ‘My life is committed to making myself useful to everybody’. This one thought can bring so much fire in you.

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