Information about the interviewee
Date of birth: 1945
Marital status: married
I: I am sure that you have a lot of information to share. Tell me about yourself
M: where do I begin? Well, I am sixty-seven years of age and still going strong. I have been married twice, and I have five grown children. My first marriage ended when I was still young. I was married for only three years before my husband died. He died of a road accident, and the person who hit him was drunk. As you can expect, I have been against drinking and driving since then. I became a major campaigner against drunken driving since then. Although I have three grown up sons, none of them drinks because I made sure I instilled in them the dangerous consequences of alcohol since they were young. I got one child from my first marriage and I stayed single for over two years before I finally got married to my current husband. We have been together since then, and I must say that he has been one of the most important people in my life. I have five grandchildren, who I love very much. They keep me young by letting me be a part of their lives. They are a source of tremendous joy in our home whenever they come to visit. Three of my children have their own families. One of them, a daughter, is single after she and her husband separated. The two youngest children are pursuing their careers and continuing with their education. Only one of our children lives in the state. The rest live in different states around the country, and we see them twice or thrice a year when there is an occasion in the family. My husband and I occasionally go out for dinner, and on some weekends, we go bowling. I pushed him into it, really. He did not enjoy it in the beginning, claiming that it was not exciting. This changed after a few weekends, when he learnt the game well, and he began beating me at it. The game suddenly became exciting, and he made sure that we would not miss any game. We do not bowl as much as we used to because of different health conditions. My husband was diagnosed with cancer some years back, and he has been struggling for a while now. Some years back I found out that I had diabetes and in addition to that, I fell down and broke my hip. It has been challenging to deal with those situations but we have managed to handle them well.
I: you seem to have faced quite a few challenges in your life. What other challenges do you think senior citizens and the elderly face?
M: yes, I guess I have faced several challenges in my life, although I know several people who have been in worse situations. My husband’s death affected me so deeply, to the extent that I suffered from depression. I never thought I would ever get over it. This was one of the most trying times for me. I was young and full of love, and I did not know how I would bring up our son on my own. I suffered in silence, until I realized that I was not helping myself in any way by isolating myself from the people who loved me. It was then that I decided to seek help. And from that time I started the healing process. After several months of therapy sessions and church visits, I met my current husband, and our friendship began developing. He helped cope with my problems, and he gave me the assurance and comfort I needed at the time. Aside from the death of my first husband, and the various health conditions I have suffered, I also had to see my daughter as she was going through tough challenges in her life. This was especially a sad moment for her and she was depressed by the situation. She had seen how the marriage between her parents had been successful and she wanted the same thing for her life. It took a long time for her to accept the situation but she was finally able to do so with the help of her family and close friends. Like any other parents, my husband and I faced many challenges when bringing up our children, especially in their teenage years. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges I faced in life was taking care of my aging mother who, unfortunately, passed two years back. She was a strong woman, but age had caught up with her. She only had two children, and since my brother lives out of the country, I was the one responsible for taking care of her. She had constantly told us that she did not want to be taken to a nursing home no matter how good it was. We decided to let her move in with us since that was the only way we could ensure that she was okay. Besides, we would save a lot by letting her stay with us instead of taking her to a nursing home. We were lucky then because our youngest children were living with us. They helped us take care of her and I must say they assisted us greatly.
I: you mentioned that you would save some money by choosing to take care of your mother instead of taking her to a nursing home. Does that mean that you have had financial challenges as well?
M: yes, we have had some financial challenges along the way. The nation’s economy has not particularly been good, and it has affected people in different areas and sectors of life. We were lucky that we were able to finish paying our mortgage in time. It had been quite a struggle for us, and we had to forfeit some luxuries such as taking vacations and eating out often. Our sacrifices were worth it, since we now have a place we can call home and we do not have to live in fear of our home being foreclosed. We were not able to afford for all the things we needed in life. All our children have gone to colleges but it was because they worked hard. We could not afford to pay for their tuition altho8ugh we did help whenever we could. They worked part time, and this enabled them to study since they were able to pay for their tuition. When my mother came to live with us, she needed a lot of care because of her health and she needed to see the doctor often. Although Medicare helped, we had to add more money to cater for her hospital bills. As you know, people get more health complications as they get older. My mother had diabetes for many years, and as she got older, she suffered from other health complications such as osteoporosis. She also had vision and hearing problems. This was quite a challenge for us. Although our children assisted us when they could, they also have their own financial needs and some of them have their own families. The cost of medicine was high and it really drained us financially. Senior citizens and the elderly face many challenges in their lives. Not that I am qualified to talk about them, but I have seen the challenges my friends and their families have gone through over the years. Some people in their later years are not as lucky as I have been. They do not have children who take care of them. Some of their children have abandoned them after taking them to nursing homes. Others have not had the privilege of going to nursing homes; neither do they have family or close friends near them. They lead lonely lives, and this is detrimental to their health. They end up getting depression and some of them end up aging up more quickly. Children should not abandon their parents when they age. They should take the initiative of taking care of them when the parents can no longer take care of themselves. Another major challenge facing the older people is the fact that they get sick often and they have to spend a lot of money on medication and doctor visits. This is a major problem, especially because they tend to get more serious and life threatening diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer among other health complications. I think that these are the major problems facing the older generation in our country.
I: how do you think they can overcome the challenges and where can they get support?
Other than the children taking a more active role in ensuring that they take care of their parents, I think that the bigger burden falls on the senior citizens themselves. I say this because some of the older people think that their working lives have ended just because they have retired. I have been able to cope with all these challenges by the help of those who are close to me. My children have been a pillar of strength to us especially when they discovered about our health problems. One of the most important things in my life is faith. I am a religious person and I must confess that my faith has made me strong and has enabled me. The fact that someone has retired from employment does not mean that he or she should remain idle. Active people tend to remain younger and they seem to lead healthier lives. They are not lonely, since they interact constantly with other people at work. Social institutions such as churches create a place for people to meet and form bonds. Many of the religious institutions offer support for their older members and they assist them in whatever is necessary. I appreciate religious institutions and I understand their importance in people’s lives. However, I also understand that that some people are not religious and they should look for other ways through which they can join different social groups. Other than working, older people can join, volunteer and participate in different social events. They can form social groups, and they can participate in activities such as taking short travels. They can take lessons in simple dancing, pottery, or bowling. There are many activities, which people can join. Many of these activities are inexpensive and some of them are not tiring. The goal is to get the people out of the house where they can join others and not feel lonely and miserable. The community should support the senior citizens in their midst. They should see them as important people who have contributed to the building the nation and making it what it is today. They should ensure that the elderly among them get the care and support they need, and that they do not lack anything they need.
I: you stated that Medicare assisted you when you were taking care of your mother. Do you think that the government is doing enough to take care of the senior citizens and the elderly?
M: well, the government has different programs and grants which are intended to help the senior citizens in the country. In some cases, the government has enabled some of the senior citizens to start businesses and pay off some of their debts. This is commendable and it has changed the lives of many people. Those who were wiser when they were younger knew the importance and the value of pensions and savings. They are therefore not struggling as much as those who do not have any pension. Although the Medicare program helps in footing some of the costs, it only does so partially. As I told you before, many senior citizens have high medical expenses. The Medicare covers a very small percentage of the amount they are expected to pay. I think that the leaders should look at different ways through which they can ensure that the elderly people in the society live decent lives. I do not consider it fair for the senior citizens of this country to live in want and need, yet they paid taxes when they were working. The government certainly needs to do more. I have seen some senior citizens suffering because their homes have been foreclosed. The economy has taken a downturn and the interest rates soared, meaning that more people were not able to make the payments. It is not fair for the elderly to spend their final years in such misery, and this only adds to their depression. This is certainly not fair.
I: you mentioned the importance of starting saving money at a young age. What other advice can you give to the younger generation?
M: yes, I wish I had started savings when I was younger, it would have certainly saved me a lot of trouble. Consumerism has entered the minds of many young people today, that they do not see the importance of establishing the basic financial principles in their lives. Some of them do not save or invest, and they end up suffering when they have an emergency. I think that financial responsibility is one of the most important things in this life. I also think that education is important. Although some people have succeeded in life without the highest level of education, they are an exception. People should take the advantage of learning when they are young. They may have other responsibilities when they are older, and they may not be able to further their education. Although we had financial constraints, I always told my children that they needed to take every opportunity to learn and further their education. Seeing how they lead their lives today makes me proud. I would also caution young people against pride. I feel sad today when I see young people do things without consulting those who are older than they are. Some of them are too proud to seek any advice and this has led to their downfall. They should realize that their seniors might know more than they do. They have made some mistakes, some of which have been costly, but they have learnt from these mistakes. The older people have a lot of experience. This does not mean that they should consult on everything they need to do. I think that many young people do not realize the importance of families, and that is why some of them spend many years before they visit their parents. This might not be their fault entirely, and I understand that we parents are responsible for this. The young people should however realize that parents are important. They should take care of them when they are older, and not live them to age in loneliness. Some people do not see the importance of having children, and this has affected the nation in different ways. It has affected the economy in the sense that they there are many older people on social security, yet there are fewer younger people working. The government does not have enough to help the elderly since it does not have enough revenue. People should not fear having children. They should realize that although it is challenging to bring up responsible children, children are also a source of joy around the home. My final advice would be to encourage the young people to have self-confidence, and learn to accept themselves despite the challenges they are facing. They should not let others bring them down and discourage them from achieving their dreams.