Why should not old men be mad?

 Some have known a likely lad
That had a sound fly-fisher's wrist

Turn to a drunken journalist;
A girl that knew all Dante once
Live to bear children to a dunce;

A Helen of social welfare dream,
Climb on a wagonette to scream.
Some think it a matter of course that chance
Should starve good men and bad advance,
That if their neighbours figured plain,
As though upon a lighted screen,
No single story would they find
Of an unbroken happy mind,
A finish worthy of the start.
Young men know nothing of this sort,
Observant old men know it well;
And when they know what old books tell
And that no better can be had,
Know why an old man should be mad.


Often, I see elderly folks who come into the hospital for medical reasons, and we are consulted either for depression or capacity, because their family or physicians think they need to go into a nursing home.

There was the 91 year old lady who sat with a straight back and her legs neatly together. She was often confused, but always formal and pleasant. She called me 'my dear', and would always say, 'come back and see me.' She had beautiful, paper thin, translucent skin.

There was the 76 year old man who said he was just lonely, and not depressed. I held his hand and he had an amazing grip. When I commented on his clasp being stronger than mine, he said, 'This is how it should be. You're a lady.'

I find myself going beyond the rules of my training and just spending time with these patients, talking to them, and yes, holding hands at times. They are such survivors, so much smarter than we give them credit for, have so much to share. Sometimes my affection comes through when we present, and somebody will joke, 'Why don't you take them home?'

When you've spent all your life taking care of your family, being strong, caring, you shouldn't have the spend the last years on your own. Sometimes, the family simply can't pitch in, they have their own problems, or the patient is too sick to be cared for at home. There is a reason, and that makes it easy for me to explain to the patient. But sometimes, its not as simple.

Thats when I feel stuck. And sad.

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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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14 Responses to Why should not old men be mad?

  1. Emjay says:

    I also feel terribly sad when I see the elderly left alone. They have so much knowledge and a wealth of "sense" to impart but the young are often too impatient to listen and by the time we are prepared to listen it is sometimes too late……..
    It is nice to think there are still people like you in the profession who take time to just hold a hand. It is such a small thing but I am sure it made a huge difference to that elderly man's day.
    I am not elderly (well I perhaps to a child I am) but my day can be improved by a "hello" or kind word from a stranger so it must be all the more special to those elderly coming into your hospital.

  2. Purplesque says:

    That's the one reason I'm glad I chose this field, because it gives me the excuse to talk to my patients. In fact, my job IS to talk to my patients. πŸ™‚

  3. paulsroom says:

    Despite being fully rounded, physical and animated three-dimensional beings, we can be guilty of frequently treating our fellow humans in a two-dimensional way. We use statistics and categories to attach identities to groups that are in fact made up of individuals. We use generalisations to define characteristics which may not precisely apply to the individual. Thus it is when the individual becomes detached from the mainstream that aspects become apparent at a level that we can find too complex to fully comprehend. Yet being human ourselves, those personality features are contained within us and we use various controls to handle them.The one thing that we appear to have lost today is the sense of community that existed in the past, more from the fact that travel was so long and laborious, that few people travelled outside of their geographical areas. Thus an attachment to communities was almost understood and certainly within the full family state. Ironically it is the social outcast groups today where the community support remains the strongest, for they often live on the edge and therefore understand the true nature of community integration.Being alone and being lonely are two different things, yet often grouped together as a single description. People want the independence of their own home, but also desire to be a part of their community. But red tape, debilitating illnesses, low income and loss of family take their toll in isolating people who may have been highly influential in their communities at the apex of their careers. In a full Welfare State, the contributions people have made (I’m not talking about money here) in their working life would be translated into a caring period upon their dotage. In the past, the absence of any such state and financial support would have resulted in occupancy in the Workhouse. We are often in danger of creating the same situation today but in much more subtle ways.

  4. Vijay says:

    Wonderful post enjay. And it's great to see your picture instead of a shiny clay smug-looking frog πŸ™‚

  5. Amo1025 says:

    As an older man I am not made, yet as I grow older each year I learn how dismissive younger people can be and well lets also face the fact few people notice old men even walking down the street. This country has forgotten the assets of older people. How do you even strike up a conversation now with younger people that seem to have their ipods or cell phones firmly connected to their ears? I get lectures on the use of technology when my entire working life has been networks and computers after al someone had to invent all the stuff it just did not appear like magic in 1990.Neglect is the most common thing I have seen after reaching the age of 50 you are assumed to to be smart enough , physical enough take too much time. Well I am glad to say I am a new generation of elder I defined my youth in the 1960s and 70's, I am among the largest population group in the country and well now I must re-define what it is to be senior. So no I am not angry loss of a human touch is not going to be accepted nor shipping me off to an old folks home. So really the choice is up to those younger then I, you can sit around and debate and study the problem offer help if you like but all it really takes is to sit down ask about things old stories how one might do this or that and in order to do that you have to close the computers, take out the ear buds and hang up the cell phones. Many pause at a setting sun well that pretty much is like pausing for an older person it just takes a moment. Oh yes and for us old people to be active on-line which I am.

  6. Lakshmi says:

    Wonderful post. And discussion.In my thirties now, I am constantly planning for my seventies and beyond. I keep convincing myself that I would require no emotional support, and physical support can be bought with money. But a little voice at one corner whispers – thats what you think NOW. Seeing my loved ones age fills my life with dread sometimes. Those who walked tall and boomed orders and endearments are now doubled over, shrinked and whisper requests. And the heart just plummets into the abyss of the stomach.Vijay, while I agree that the photo IS great, the smug looking frog was a chocolate (wasn't it, purplesque?) which is fine too. And I wonder if the frog is inside the person in the photo now.

  7. Purplesque says:

    Thank you. You've put into words what I was thinking of, but far more coherently. πŸ™‚ As the world is shrinking, we are becoming more isolated within our community. The old system is breaking down, and there are no substitutes.

  8. Purplesque says:

    Gasp! As Lakshmi has pointed out, it was a chocolate frog, and one I was quite fond of. πŸ™‚ thank you.

  9. Purplesque says:

    Thank you so much for your comment. We are hoping that this huge group of seniors, smarter and more powerful than ever before, will make the society wake up and make some changes. I agree with you about the computers and the ear buds. As a younger person, I have been guilty of the same neglect that you're talking about. My grandparents did not live with us, but they lived with the whole joint family. I was quite close to my grandmothers, until they passed away. We would often visit our grandfathers, and while I loved them, the whole older-male-respected thing made me stay away. Now I realize what I missed, and this is one way of making amends.I'm really really glad that you're active online. I keep pestering my parents to do the same; but while they're online for business, they won't do so for pleasure.

  10. Purplesque says:

    I agree. While I haven't thought about my own aging yet, I constantly worry about my parents. They might be comfortable financially and even physically, but the emotional hole..the people I see in the hospital are usually physically ill, but thats not their biggest discomfort. The fact that no one comes to visit anymore is.It was a chocolate frog, a close friend once deemed me such. Eating it would have had complex psychological and religious connotations, I'm sure. But I didn't. πŸ™‚

  11. Vijay says:

    Eh! Why on earth would anyone want a frog chocolate?! Did it end up inside you? Is that why you are / were fond of it?All rhetorical questions. Don't bother with replies πŸ™‚

  12. Purplesque says:

    Okay. I just have this for you, then. πŸ™‚

  13. Vijay says:

    Yuk. There really are frog chocolates!!

  14. Amo1025 says:

    You are more then welcome as for the frogs the legs can be very good if cooked right.So then if one wants to si with someone older they must hear the stories of the old days you know the ones of my youth as a young man. I cannot say other then I do have a horse and I do ride him a few times a year my old tales are beyond the years of those before me and so the flavor is of more modern times well at least what each generation thinks are modern times. You can read one of my old stories HERE. For me it is really very odd what I lived through so many out here learn as history. Maybe that is why History has become a very important item in my life.

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