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Special Portuguese Spanish    

Year 6 - N° 297 – February 3, 2013

Muriaé, Minas Gerais (Brasil)

Renata Rinaldini - renatarinaldini@hotmail.com


The elderly and the family relationship

How to care, to respect and to love 

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  
(Timothy 5:8)

To change society is not easy, but to change the way we treat people around us is something that is entirely within our reach.

Dr. Roberta da Silva, specialized in Geriatrics, explains that in the Eastern culture the elderly family member is the holder of wisdom and worthy of deep respect. Thus, advices are urged from he who not only has a sum of years, but also values, experiences and wisdom to guide the younger in the challenges and paths offered by life. It seems simple to them thereby to be aided by older people, knowing beforehand the path that one must tread, the alerts of which one should be aware, and the adversities one will find. And most importantly: they are grateful to the elderly family member. They dignify the elderly until their last moments.

And what about us? What do we learn from our elderly? Do they serve as counsellors to us? Do we respect them as they deserve? Dr. Roberta Silva believes we don’t, as on observing the facts around us, our society has a different view regarding the third age: the elderly often end up occupying a “status” of unproductiveness, of not being able to produce anything. They do not work anymore, as if the job market did offer to them dignified chances to work.

It is popularly said that man learns through suffering. Unlike the Easterners, most of us despises such offer of knowledge; preferring to take more risk, to race more, than to listen to precious lessons. This is clear, in this hectic pace on which we prefer to blame our lifestyle, the daily race and the chores to earn a living than to blame ourselves for such indifference.

Today, what we seek in Geriatrics is aging with quality of life: disease prevention, advances in treatments, but there is no medication to cure the evil of loneliness and abandonment that afflicts more than 15% of this population.

Surely it is time to educate ourselves and our children, showing them that those wrinkles do not only indicate days and days lived, but are the hallmarks of the work they had so that today we were here in reasonable conditions of culture, comfort and well-being. 

Domestic cosiness and warmth: only the home is able to offer 

We must understand that often the slower walk, the trembling hands and the voice with lower tones do not mean weakness, but signs that time must be embraced more than one can hold, that one has already lost too much and that many people are still dear to them; and for this reason perhaps the family may be all one still has, and that means a lot.

When the family opts for admission of the elderly into nursing homes, their life expectancy decreases significantly, no matter how good the facilities are and however much the care is carried out by competent professionals. After all, even the domestic cosiness and warmth is only really offered by homes, but are homes offered?

We must be able to understand that the elderly can still be useful, perhaps not with strength or with large monetary amounts, but with advice, with affection to other family members, especially with the children, taking care of the little things that are part of our homes. It's hard to make people aware. But just think how you would like to be treated by your children in your old age. Do not forget that your example is being observed and then repeated by them. 

The elderly represented only 0.7% of the population in the 40s and now this group represents 2.5%. According to the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) in 2025, they will reach 34 million, placing our country in 6th place in the world in the elderly population. Therefore, necessary appropriate actions to meet this very expressive part of society are needed, and here the family has a very important role.

How, currently, is the relationship of the younger members with relatives who are already in old age and what can be done to improve this conviviality?

What does it mean to have an elderly person living with other family members?

In general, the presence of the elderly in the family will result in some interference, especially in the education of children, which is obviously a mission for parents. But there is no problem that cannot be bypassed when there is love and respect for elders. The family can never lose sight that the elderly have had their phase of work and providing.  . Therefore, the Third Age is not a stage to win the affection of the family but to rather enjoy something already built. It is therefore important for the younger, to build family harmony from now. Nothing prevents the elderly from doing some light housework, but abuse cannot exist. 

Filial piety cannot be neglected 

The Spiritual Benefactors revealed to Kardec that the limit to work is that of strength. In this respect God allowed man to be entirely free, and stressed that he has the right to rest in old age, and not to being obliged to do anything, and if the elderly has any responsibilities, they must be according to one’s physical possibilities.

Kardec also passes the spirits teaching which advises that filial piety cannot be neglected, since it is implied in the commandment: "Honour your father and your mother." To honour them, means nothing different from "respecting them, watching for their needs, to give them repose in old age, to surround them with care as they did to us in childhood."  “Above all regarding parents without resources” – Kardec continues – “ it is here that true filial piety is demonstrated”. Those who judge themselves as doing a great deed, because they give the strictly necessary to their parents in order for them not to die of hunger, obey this commandment whilst depriving themselves of anything, accommodating their parents in the tiniest room of the house just so they are not just left in the street, reserving for themselves whatever it is best and more comfortable!? Often the children care for their elderly parents grudgingly and do force them to suffer dearly what they have left to live, unloading on them the burden of the whole managing of their own household! Will it be then that elderly and weak parents ought to serve their young and strong children? Had their mother sold her Milk when she breast fed them?  Did she count perhaps her sleepless nights when they were sick, her steps and efforts made to get what their children needed? No. Children do not owe to their poor parents only the strictly necessary: they also owe them, as far as they can, the small nothings, the superfluous, the requests, the loving care, which are only the interest due on what they have received, the payment of a sacred debt. Only this is the filial piety grateful to God. "

Within the scope of filial piety, Dr. Roberta Silva adds:                                   

"(...) A good initiative for a family to live better in the presence of an elderly relative is to teach children to respect them and value them, treating with love and kindness the many lapses of memory he or she may have and trying to understand, and acting equally towards the repetitive speeches and delay of reasoning on his or her part. It should be borne in mind that advanced age is not always synonymous with ostracism and inactivity. In the Old Testament, there is a psalm that says: 'still bear fruit in old age, shall be fresh and flourishing.' " 

Aging is part of the natural course of life 

A Doctor in Psychology from the University of São Paulo and Professor at the State University of Londrina, Veronica Bender Haydu, wrote an article in the Tribuna do Vale de Paranapanema, No. 1179, entitled: "Care, respect, love”, in which she shows important aspects of people's lives regarding respect for the elderly. She wrote: 'I will not specify what age defines old age, because this is very relative and it may be considered to start at 50, 60 or 70 years. In this text, going to write about ordinary people, those around us, such as our grandfathers, father, uncles, father in law and mother in law. I'll write about the elderly who are around us and for whom we can 'make a difference'.

Aging is part of the natural course of life and will happen to all those who have not died before reaching older age. To live is to grow old... With maturity, we acquire knowledge, sensitivity for affectionate relationships and a strong tendency to rely on past experiences, and when we have good interpersonal skills, we gain confidence and assurance. On the other hand, with the aging of our body, we lose the physical capacity, we become concerned with the diseases that are occurring with increasing frequency, we are afraid to die, because we see people in our midst, such as friends and family, dying; and we are replaced by younger people in our work or employment. Furthermore, people around us start to refer to the 'old/elderly', often in a pejoratively and evil form. Often, we see older people being subjected to ill-treatment practices that are not only present practices in our culture. This is a global problem that has received attention from the World Health Organization, in which the Toronto Declaration on the Prevention of Global Elderly Mistreatment defined mistreatment of the elderly "as any single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action that occurs in any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or discomfort to an elderly person. These can be of several types: physical, psychological / emotional, sexual, financial or simply reflects acts of wilful neglect or default."

Given this scenario, I ask: What can we do to make our society more just in order that older people can be happy too? Just a little more tolerance and willingness to see the contributions they are capable of making.

The elderly and the family: two sides of the same coin 

When we change actions and reactions that are beyond the reach of the elderly due to the limitations imposed on them by age, or when we exploit the elderly with demands and work above their abilities, we create a coercive environment that provokes a reaction of flight. Thus, in order to escape the demands and aggression, the elderly take refuge and isolate themselves, and with isolation often comes depression. Isolation and depression are conditions that favour the emergence of other diseases.  What I want to emphasize is that negligence, disregard and emotional and physical violence only worsens the conditions of the elderly with regards to being productive, to having a busy social life, to being healthy, and finally, to having a successful aging.

The recipe enabling us to "make a difference" is: Caring and making yourself take care. It is understood that caring for the elderly is paying them attention, is seeing to their needs, is giving care and affection. To criticize, to denigrate, to repress, to scold, to punish are not appropriate ways to take care of anyone. To make sure that the elderly take care of themselves is to give opportunity for them to worry about their health, it is above all, to value their achievements, so that they are productive and seek to be happy and motivated in social life and thus have a dignified life, very different from a life of isolation.

Researching in the magazine PUC / SP, year I, no. 8 November 2000, we find an article written by a social worker Fatima Teixeira, master degree from PUC / SP, entitled "The elderly and the family: the two sides of the same coin", in which she addresses the issue of the elderly within the scope family under two approaches: on one hand, the view of the elderly with their needs and expectations, and on the other hand, the modern family with its organization and dynamics, not always understanding the process that the elderly are experiencing at this stage of life. Teixeira defines the family as a group rooted in a society and has a trajectory which delegates them social responsibilities. The family has, especially before the elderly, taken an important and innovative role, to the extent in which the accelerated aging of the population witnessed nowadays is a recent process and still little studied by social sciences. The Federal Constitution of 1988 presents the family as the basis of society and places a duty on the family, on society and on the State " to assist the elderly, ensuring their participation in the community, defending their dignity and well-being and guaranteeing their right to life". 

The need of the elderly need is to feel valued 

In this sense, it is up to the family members to understand this person in their life process of transformations, to know their weaknesses, thus modifying one’s vision and attitude about aging and to collaborate in order that the elderly maintain their position among the family group and society.

Here lies a question: How do children, generally accustomed to being dependent on their parents for a good number of years of their lives, start experiencing at any given time a reversal in this relationship when parents begin to need their attention and help? With the weaknesses that often accompany the aging process, conflicts between the children of the parents commonly arise when the parents’ situation goes on to require new responsibilities and care from the children. The family will then need a period of adaptation to accept with serenity, to manage the new situation in order to meet the needs of parents and to prevent them feeling a burden on their children. Hence the importance of the elderly to concentrate efforts, in several senses, and not to indulge in idleness, avoiding as much as possible the feeling of dependence, which so afflicts them, from the family.

The elderly feed expectation of receiving attention and care from their children and grandchildren when they lose or have their physical and intellectual abilities diminished, which is a constant worry for the elderly. This dependence is characterized in a true tacit agreement, i.e., a negotiation in which parents cherish the expectation of obtaining, at the time they need, the consideration offered for dedication to the family.

The changes that are occurring in the representations of family in the new generations are demanding alternative forms of family life and reformulation of values and concepts. The Brazilian family of the third millennium is increasingly becoming distanced from the traditional model, in which the elderly occupied a prominent place. We are living in an important period of transition and change, in which it is necessary to understand the social and cultural transformations that have been taking place in recent decades, to face our own aging process within expectations consistent with the new forms of family organization. However, whatever the structure of the family may be in the future, there is a need to maintain the emotional bonds between its members and the elderly. At this stage of life, the elderly need to feel valued, to live with dignity, peace and receive the attention and affection of the family.




PUC/SP Magazine, year I, No 8, November 2000.

Tribuna do Vale do Parapanema No 1179. 

The Spirits’ Book by Allan Kardec

The Gospel according to Spiritism by Allan Kardec.


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