It’s kind of fitting for this to be my first documented goal, because for as long as I can recall, I have had an illogical fear of the elderly. I think the fear has to do with how I feel most elderly seem incapable of doing simple tasks, like walking across the street, and I want to help them, but then again, I don’t want to offend them by trying to help them when they don’t need or want the help. I know, it is illogical, but my emotions have never been logical. But no matter what I try, I constantly feel stuck when I see elderly people whose bodies have become immobile and frail. I’ve often referred to this fear as my kryptonite as I can instantly feel the fear come over me as soon as I see an elderly individual in my sights.
For the last few years, I’ve been contemplating getting over this fear. Maybe volunteer at an old folks’ home? Find an elderly individual in my neighborhood and offer to help them with something? Offer an elderly family friend a kindly service? They were all good ideas, but I never could get myself to implement them.
Luckily, today I unexpectedly got my opportunity to face my fear and do a kindly deed for a very gentle elderly lady. Rene and I were walking to get some lunch after it had been pouring cats and dogs the night before, and still slightly raining here and there. On our way, we noticed an elderly woman who was hesitant at a crosswalk. There was a sizable ”river” of water running down the street and she kept staring at it and pacing slightly. At first, Rene and I just walked by her, but we stopped to gauge the situation. I figured Rene, the kindly gentlemen he is, would offer to help the woman, but he just stopped and looked at me, perhaps because I was standing closer to the woman than he was.
Then I realized this was my opportunity to offer help. There was no doubt in my mind that the elderly woman wanted to cross the street, so I swallowed my fears and walked up to her. I think I stumbled out some words to her, “Do you need some help? I can help you across the street?” She then looked up at me ever so kindly, considered the situation, and moved her arm up to my hand. For a split second, I was confused, and then realized that she was accepting my offer for help. So I took her hand and helped her step over the water “river” as much as she could and made sure she was stable crossing the water. Then she let go of my hand and said, “Thank you!” And I think I mumbled, “You’re welcome.” But my mind was a daze, I wasn’t even sure if I said the right response till a few moments later when I ran the events over again in my mind. And then, all I could recall was that she had some of the softest hands I had ever touched before. And just like that, it was all over, she was on her way, and I was on my way.
I know this probably isn’t that great an accomplishment for others, but for me, I hope it has opened up something in me to overcoming my fears of the elderly and being able to help them.
Does anyone have a recommendation on what I should do next in overcoming my fears? Has anyone had a great experience in helping the elderly?