Old people are no different from children! You should treat them like kids. Like children, they are adamant and repeat the same things! They talk about the same thing over and over again, without realising 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 come into your life and make you realise that. You cannot change old people overnight, or even in a period of time. You need to accept them.
See, there is some wisdom in what they are saying. Sometimes, you are unable to see wisdom in what an experienced, mature person says. They speak from their own experience, over the years. Understand that they have a different set of experiences than yours. So don’t get upset if they don’t change! If you accept them as they are, a miracle will happen. If you give them space, love and compassion, they slowly start changing. But you need to have a lot of patience. You will learn patience dealing with old people, with grannies, who have certain patterns!
Also, don’t take their moods too seriously! If they’re upset, don’t take it too seriously because then, you won’t be able to communicate with them. Don’t try to convince them. 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 don’t really mean it! If they say, “I’m so upset” – they may say it, but they will still go and have their food, watch television and 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!” If you take all their complaints seriously, you become miserable, and won’t be able to help them. You should realise it’s only their way of communicating. People who are very aged or sick just want to communicate with you, but what is it that they can share? When people don’t have enthusiasm, they will only share their grievances. That doesn’t mean that they are purely miserable. There is a corner in them that is untouched by any amount of misery. Whether it is extreme joy, happiness or misery, there is a part in every human being that remains untouched.
It is the same with people who appear to be very miserable. In reality, they are not that miserable, but they talk, talk, talk and talk! Especially when you know that someone cares for you, you don’t always go to him (or her) with a smile and with joy. You go to him (or her) with all your problems and complaints! This is the normal course of things in the world. Isn’t that so?
Suppose you are at a big party, you will go find your very close friend and complain, “The party is good, but this should have been better and that 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 the food?!” You will find your close friends and talk, but you won’t complain to the host. Out of good manners, you won’t go and complain to someone new! The same is true of elderly people!
There is a nice story. A man earned a lot of money and then gave all his property to his son. When his son got everything, he built a small out-house 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 into his grandfather’s home, where everything was old and in a very poor, pathetic condition – old utensils, old chairs, all 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 and your chair. Don’t break them!” When he asked why, the child said, “Because tomorrow, my father needs all this.” The child’s father heard this and was shocked. 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 realise this fact. You are also going to be old one day, and are going to be like them. If you find that the elderly people in your home are complaining, and you don’t like it, you better not do it today, and if you see them as being so generous, so calm, so serene, so loving, you better start being that way right now. And I tell you, if you’re on the path, in the knowledge, and if you keep doing your meditation and the breathing exercises, your ageing reverses! That enthusiasm to learn will exist and your alertness, focus, attention – everything – increases in life. You will not become cynical and senile as you advance in age.